News helicopter crashes in Seattle; Two dead


Investigators are still looking for answers in the deadly crash of a television news helicopter that killed two people near the Seattle Space Needle. The wreckage fell on top of several cars and all of the debris erupted into flames.

A horrific scene unfolded Tuesday morning as a news helicopter fell from the sky onto a downtown Seattle street, slamming into at least two vehicles.

"I hear it hit the ground and it burst into flames and landed between red car and gray truck," said Daniel Alejandro Gonzalez.

ABC affiliate KOMO-TV's news helicopter crashed during takeoff from the station's 5th floor helipad next to city's iconic Space Needle.

"It kind of just nosed over trees and clipped the tops of the trees and crashed just on the other side of the street there," said Bo Bain, witness.

Witnesses say the helicopter sounded noticeably different before the crash.

"We heard the chopper rotors, heard the noise of a problem and heard the explosion as the chopper hit the ground," said Corwin Haeck, KOMO Radio.

Huge flames and plumes of black smoke poured from the burning wreckage as fuel from the crash burned down the street.

KOMO-TV has identified those killed as longtime photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner.

"At times like this, we are reminded that the media, like us, are also public servants," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

A 38-year-old man in one of the cars struck by the helicopter was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

"He pushed the door open, he walked out like 20 feet, his head was bleeding, his shirt was on fire and he collapsed," said Gonzalez.

An investigation into what could have led to this deadly crash is underway. The helicopter that crashed was not the regular news helicopter but a temporary replacement for another chopper that was down for maintenance.