(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:
A helicopter appears to have crashed into two cars just outside the Space Needle. Massive police and fire response. pic.twitter.com/PPm8WfAVFF
— Brian M. Rosenthal (@brianmrosenthal) March 18, 2014
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:
So many fond memories Bill Strothman. So many adventures. Our hearts break more than words can express. pic.twitter.com/0JJLEnCGXU
— Connie Thompson (@ConnieKOMO) March 18, 2014
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.