Update: 2 killed in TV helicopter crash near Space Needle; nearby roads closed

March 18, 2014 at 7:51 am | In Not WS but we're mentioning it anyway, West Seattle news | 12 Comments

(LATEST: KOMO helicopter crash victims identified; federal investigators on scene)

(Photo courtesy Jennifer, taken from crane in the area)
7:51 AM: If you are headed downtown, stay far away from the Seattle Center area – a helicopter is reported to have crashed, and there are fires on the ground, including at least two cars. KING and KOMO TV report it is a helicopter they use in a partnership – both of them are located in the area, KOMO right across the street from Seattle Center. Scanner indicates at least one person injured on the ground.

7:59 AM: Video uploaded by Alex McBurney shows the fire likely moments after it happened. Firefighters at the scene are working on extinguishing the fire as well as getting to any patients. Scanner also indicates authorities are now notifying aviation authorities – NTSB, FAA. We have heard discussion of one person hurt but have not heard other news of casualties. All regional news sources are of course covering this – we just want to reiterate, stay away from that area. We haven’t heard yet the full parameters of what’s blocked off, but Broad Street, 4th and 5th in that area for sure. For context, see the photo in this tweet by Seattle Times (WSB partner) reporter Brian Rosenthal - note the 5th/Broad McDonald’s in the background:

Street closures will continue for hours, if not – as one TV anchor just suggested – days. The helicopter is widely reported to belong to KOMO, which is right across Broad St. from the south side of the Needle.

8:16 AM: Seattle Fire has just tweeted that two people are confirmed dead at the scene. You can follow SFD’s Twitter stream here; SPD’s Twitter stream here. (You don’t need to be a Twitter user to see tweets via the web.)

9:33 AM: During a news conference just before 9 am, SFD confirmed that the people who died were both on the helicopter. One person hit on the ground is in the hospital. And they are still looking for someone who got out of their pickup truck and left the scene, just wanting to make sure s/he is OK. Your editor here worked at KOMO 1991-1999 and like everyone else sends thoughts and prayers to the families, friends, and co-workers of the victims, who have not yet been publicly identified. We’re moving on with today’s West Seattle news – the regional news outlets are all over this; just again keep in mind that the area will be closed to traffic, likely into tomorrow, so if you have to go anywhere near Seattle Center/Space Needle, expect detours. We will update our daily traffic watch if there are any official overviews on those.

10:18 AM: Mayor Murray will have a news conference at 10:30 – you should be able to see it live at seattlechannel.org. Meantime, apologies if you have had trouble getting into our site – interest in this story brought in a traffic crush; our server managers have opened a few more floodgates so it should be more accessible.

10:57 AM: The Times quotes KOMO as identifying one of the victims as longtime photojournalist Bill Strothman. Longtime KOMO anchor/reporter Connie Thompson (a West Seattleite) remembers him in a tweet:

The pilot has been identified (update) as Gary Pfitzner. Here is a KOMO story about them.

LATE-NIGHT NOTE: All the roads in the area reopened by 7 pm, less than 12 hours after the crash, according to SDOT.

12 Comments

  1. prayers for those who died or were injured and their families.

    Comment by sc — 8:26 am March 18, 2014 #

  2. Prayers for those who lost family and friends.

    Helicopters should be safer by now and they should not be in the skyways in Seattle with its maze of cranes from one end of the city to the other.

    Comment by Moirraine — 8:53 am March 18, 2014 #

  3. So tragic. Prayers to the families of the helicoptor pilot and passenger, everyone else involved and to those who witnessed this very horrific accident.

    Comment by CD — 8:55 am March 18, 2014 #

  4. SPD’s Twitter stream seems to be broken.

    Comment by FreGirl — 9:19 am March 18, 2014 #

  5. Sad.

    Comment by Kyle — 9:22 am March 18, 2014 #

  6. So sad.

    Comment by Prayers — 9:45 am March 18, 2014 #

  7. This tragedy will mark the end of manned helicopter news gathering and the beginning of aerial drones canvasing our skies for breaking news and traffic reports. And that’s a good thing.

    Comment by DTK — 9:45 am March 18, 2014 #

  8. Oremos por las personas que han fallecido y por sus familias

    Comment by Elmer Alvarado — 9:49 am March 18, 2014 #

  9. Just so sad. Watching the newscasters in clearly visable grief reporting on their fallen coworkers is just heartbreaking.

    Comment by Jerry — 10:22 am March 18, 2014 #

  10. Definitely terrible.
    .
    This is one of those situations where drones would be the better option. No more news/traffic copters flying through the city and hovering over neighborhoods. Just have a 10 pound drone do it.

    Comment by Wes C. Addle — 10:24 am March 18, 2014 #

  11. Moirraine: Those birds fly almost every day, in all kinds of weather, keeping your traffic reports coming and keeping us informed. The Coast Guard and Life Flight choppers fly in far worse weather than that, saving lives even in the middle of a hurricane. I’ve been here 14 years and this is the first chopper crash I remember. How many crashes are on I-5 *every* *single* *day*?

    Yes, flying a helicopter is… not easy. But these are highly trained professionals who get refresher training on a regular basis, by Federal law… and they are very, very good at what they do.

    The flip side of it is, in *any* aircraft, if something goes sideways that close to the ground things happen very, very fast… but the fact that these incidents are so rare is a testament to the relentless dedication to safety in the entire aviation industry.

    (Credentials: I grew up in aviation; my father was a certified flight instructor with many thousands of hours in his logbook, and I flew all over the Southeast with him when I was a lad, and learned the industry from the inside.)

    Comment by GlennS — 12:17 pm March 18, 2014 #

  12. I watched the Seahawks parade from a rooftop near the Space Needle on 3rd. I took a few photos of that helicopter landing and taking off while tons of pedestrians gathered in the streets below. Pictures of the wreckage made me grateful so few pedestrians were on the street today & that today wasn’t parade day. Scary to think about. My condolences to those who knew and loved the victims.

    Comment by Chris W — 9:43 pm March 18, 2014 #

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