Ex-West Seattle businessman’s fate unknown after chopper crash

(Phoenix TV report this morning on the crash investigation)
The Seattle Times (WSB partner) was first to report this locally last night: A helicopter belonging to Services Group of America, headquartered in West Seattle (in the North Delridge building known for its huge flag) until 2006, crashed in Arizona, killing at least 3 people, who have yet to be publicly, officially identified. The company acknowledged to the Times that the crashed chopper was the personal helicopter of its owner and chair, Tom Stewart here’s his official bio on the SGA site), and said there were conflicting reports on whether he was aboard. When Stewart’s company was headquartered in the North Delridge building, helicopter-flying was the source of a controversy that spanned almost the entire ’90s decade – in 1991, he sought a permit for a helipad atop the building, and the fight went all the way to the state Supreme Court before a final ruling against it in 1999. This aviation site reported on the crash and pointed to the FAA registration data of the helicopter, which suggests it may have belonged to the company before its move from West Seattle to Arizona. Since Stewart’s company moved, the main headline back here has been the $125,000,000 for-sale listing of his Vashon farm (detailed on this website, video tour and all). The SGA chopper went down in the Cave Creek, AZ, area.

25 Replies to "Ex-West Seattle businessman's fate unknown after chopper crash"

  • dawsonct February 15, 2010 (11:19 am)

    Tom Stewart is a Greedy Oligarch & Plutocrat, but I wish nothing but my deepest sympathy for the survivors of the deceased. What a horribly frightening final moments it must have been for those people.

    I DO wonder if the family will see the irony in the huge amount of public tax dollars that have been spent and will be spent on the investigation of this crash. Just one of many important functions provided by OUR government through socialist agencies like emergency services (police and fire), and the FAA.

    I’m sorry if my cynicism bothers you. Ask me my feelings about Ken Lay sometime.

  • SarahScoot February 15, 2010 (11:33 am)

    This site’s post from last night says he’s dead: http://www.kirbytalk.com/2010/02/remembering-tom-stewart/
    Seems a bit premature, given the public information available, unless the writer has additional inside information.

    • WSB February 15, 2010 (11:36 am)

      There are a lot of personal posts out there – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – declaring him dead. (If you are a FB member, search “Posts by Everyone” for the name Tom Stewart.) Hard to tell who amid all those might have direct information, but we still observe the ancient media rules of awaiting official confirmation – you just never know. We have been scouring the Arizona mediasphere too and still nothing official there. In the FB sphere, here’s one that we happened onto:
      According to Stewart’s bio (linked in our item above), he had been on a rodeo tour recently. This seems to relate to that.

  • GS February 15, 2010 (12:19 pm)

    Mr. Stewart was a decent man who created numerous companies from absolutely nothing, created tremendous value and employed thousands in our country. One might consider him the embodiment of the American dream.

  • Eric February 15, 2010 (12:24 pm)

    While I may not have agreed with Mr.Stewart’s politics, I have to acknowledge his generosity. In the 90’s I was involved in helping to establish a memorial to the 11 young men of Vashon Island that were killed in action during the Vietnam war. I called his home and he picked up. I told him who I was and what I was doing and he said, “let me know what I can do”, that was that. He provided everything we required without expecting anything in return. He even attended the dedication ceremony. I found Mr.Stewart, while rather serious, always engaging and present. He was never rude or dismissive, at least in my experience. He gave much to the community of Vashon and I for one will not rejoice in the death of another simply because of his politics, wealth or power (or because of his noisy helicopter that used to fly over my house and piss me off). Stewart wielded a big stick and he got things done by doing, not by wistful sniveling and sour grapes. He was at the top of the food chain and part of what comes with that position is that not everyone’s going to like who you are and what you do. And while he could be a hard ass (I’ve had several dealings with him), he wasn’t a monster. He was a shark and when you entered that body of water you better had be wearing you big boy panties ’cause that shark could bite. If you weren’t up to it then you had no business swimming in those waters; no crying. Anyway, Tom Stewart….not a saint by any stretch, but he was very generous and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community that I have called home for 29 years. There are folks that live here and give absolutely nothing in return. If I have to choose between a right wing helicopter commuting rich guy that gets things done and some incense burning, tie-dye wearing do nothing but whine malcontent, I’ll take the former.

  • Born To Be Mild February 15, 2010 (12:36 pm)

    @dawsonct: Loved your post. Just read his bio and was impressed with his accomplishments. But I also wondered about how much he accomplished on his own and how much he accomplished by the privileged position from which he started. “Wow, a steveador company! Thanks, Dad!”. God Bless the Government of the United States and the Free Enterprise System it protects.

  • Smitty February 15, 2010 (12:45 pm)

    Wow, Dawson – can you at least wait until the guy is buried before spewing all that hate? I think his wife and kids were onboard as well – how typical of the compassionate Left. How DARE this greedy bastard employ 4,000 people! The nerve!

    At least I’ll wait until they are 6-feet under to spit on the graves of uber-hypocrites Al Gore (live as I say – not as I do) and John Edwards (two Americas – yours and mine).

    • WSB February 15, 2010 (1:34 pm)

      Scott, that’s what many unofficial posts suggest/indicate, but for what it’s worth, no official source that we can find has yet confirmed it.

  • Mike February 15, 2010 (12:58 pm)

    dawsonct you are a clown!! Show some respect for the family who has just lost three of its family members. Tom did have his run-ins but was a very generous and giving person. Keep your ignorant comments to yourself until you know more about the person.

  • John February 15, 2010 (1:06 pm)

    I worked for Tom Stewart’s company and knew him to be a great employer and someone who cared about being providing the best possible customer service of any CEO/Owner I have know. He was a man who was deeply patriotic and believed in putting his time, and money where his mouth was. That immediately brought the scorn of many politicians in our state against him by virtue of his Republican/Conservative beliefs.

    The State of Washington (as well as the east coast Washington) did everything in their liberal power to undermine and destroy Toms financial support of conservative candidates. Tom left Washington because our state is very much anti business as evidence by their invasive taxation as well as the endless bureaucracy. Additionally the estate taxes would have had devastating effects on the company in the event of his death.

    Blessings on the families who lost loved ones in this terrible crash.

    If Tom was one of them, we have lost much.

  • SarahScoot February 15, 2010 (1:43 pm)

    Just saw that the flag at the HQ bldg on Delridge is at half-staff… FWIW.

  • respect February 15, 2010 (1:45 pm)

    Also, the ginormous flag is at half-staff (I thought FSA wasn’t in that bldg anymore)

    I’m sorry that the reporting of a fatal helicopter crash turns into a political debate.
    so sorry for relatives and friends of the victims and the loss that they have just experienced.

    • WSB February 15, 2010 (1:53 pm)

      Respect, thanks for that note. I hadn’t been by yet but have to go back that way to check on Avalon/Genesee reopening (bike crash) anyway. If I were a speculating person I would trust the unofficial reports – and certainly trust the credibility of KING quoting a source – but we nonetheless are still waiting for something official. Re: who’s in the building, I have crossreferenced the address and haven’t figured out if any part of the company still has an office there, but even if they don’t, anyone who is responsible for the flag could have lowered it in tribute … TR

  • Denny February 15, 2010 (1:53 pm)

    Eric, thank you for bringing informed thoughts to this post. I appreciate input from people who actually dealt directly with Mr. Stewart. My impression from afar was much of what you described. During this difficult time, I think mostly of the family and friends who are now greiving this loss. Posts like Dawson’s are hurtful drivel and lack couth in the face of a person’s death. Better to have said nothing at all.

  • Lincoln February 15, 2010 (2:29 pm)

    As an ex-employee of SGA, I have spoken with the company’s communications vice president and confirmed that Tom Stewart was among those who died in the crash yesterday. I have forwarded their letter to this blog editor for confirmation.

    There were many gracious acts that SGA and Tom did for the West Seattle community. For the vast majority, he sought no credit. He simply supported what he thought would improve the community. One he did proudly take credit for was when Food Services of America led the way to renovate the culinary arts teaching kitchen at South Seattle Community College with the finest equipment in the market.

    Tom was man who did not easily accept the words “we can’t do that.” That tenaciousness made him a success in business. It also made for friction when what he wanted conflicted with what others didn’t.

    May God comfort his family and may God rest his soul and that of his family members who perished with him. I hope that everyone will take a moment to consider the whole man, not just his politics, when marking his passing.

    • WSB February 15, 2010 (2:44 pm)

      Thank you, Lincoln. Looks like official confirmation has just made its way to other media sources too – I see a Times update timestamped seven minutes ago. Will update this separately. Thanks for sharing the letter.

  • Tired of Politics February 15, 2010 (2:30 pm)

    Sadly it seems everything is about politics these days – I’m so tired of people on both sides being so hateful. I miss the good ole days when Senators Jackson and Magnuson were in DC. I think the internet is making people more hateful.

  • Tom D. February 15, 2010 (3:15 pm)

    In the spirit of the last line of Lincoln’s comment, I just wanted to add that Mr. Stewart and his company were very generous in both their financial and volunteer support of the Earth Day restoration projects in the Puget Sound in the late nineties, including those along the Duwamish, and at Lincoln & Schmitz Parks. My condolences to his family on this tragedy.

  • I. Ponder February 15, 2010 (3:23 pm)

    People are complex. Powerful people have the ability to affect the lives of other people more than most, in good ways and bad. While, it’s often considered bad manners to speak badly of the dead, I don’t think the purpose of a community blog is to only say nice things.

    As such I respect the opinions of those who spoke unkindly as much as those who only spoke of the man’s good deeds.

    I suspect both are true. This man was not afraid to be disliked. He never sought anyone’s approval. A friend of mine who worked closely with him told me one of his mottos was “If I need a friend, I’ll get a dog.”

    I don’t think he’d care a wit to know unkind words were said about him.

  • pigeonmom February 15, 2010 (5:37 pm)

    He used to treat me and my co-workers like dirt. His false sense of entitlement was astounding. No I cannot wait until he is buried to say this. This guy was an a–hole to people he deemed lower than him. This was karma.

  • shane February 15, 2010 (8:36 pm)

    “I don’t think he’d care a wit to know unkind words were said about him.”

    Agreed, but I suspect it would do little to ease his loved ones grief at this time.

  • cmnsense February 15, 2010 (8:50 pm)

    I have read all of the comments above. This is no time for political shots. What we should focus on is a “Do-er’s” memory and most important, the struggle the family must now go through. No, not financial but what does that have to do with anything? A family was just wiped out. When someone poor dies do we say – oh gee’s, and they had no money… duh. Some people put the “business” in the way of a guy that passed away with his wife, son and who knows of the others… how sad. I did not know him but knew of him and what he had done with his life. Impressive from what I have heard! I’m sure there are many employees were grateful to be employed by a visionary and knew they had a job in the morning. Peace be with his family and friends. Nobody deserves to go like that! :(

  • dawsonct February 16, 2010 (12:16 pm)

    Spewing hate? How hyper-sensitive of you smitty. Sorry to hurt your feelings, cupcake. As I stated, I feel rather cynical about Mr. Stewart, but certainly not hateful.
    And Mike, I DID express my SINCERE sympathy to their survivors. I do disagree with Mr. Stewart’s politics, and I ain’t shy about my timing for when to discuss politics. I know that makes some people uncomfortable; I can’t honestly apologize for that. Our ignoring politics in this country over the past forty+ years has led our Nation to the brink of disaster. We have essentially become a nation about and for the very wealthy, with the middle- and under-classes quickly sliding into serfdom. Social mobility is a myth perpetuated by those who control the message. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2006/04/b1579981.html
    In my opinion, the politicians and policies Mr. Stewart supported are, in many cases, the source of the destruction of the true American dream, which I feel should be based on egalitarianism, not the luck of birth.
    I don’t think Mr. Stewart was evil, or even a bad person, I simply feel his sense of entitlement was misguided.

    I reiterate my deepest and most sincerely heartfelt sympathy to his survivors.

  • Beavis February 17, 2010 (9:52 pm)

    Many bitter, jealous, insenitive and did I say jealous people commenting here. He enhanced many peoples lives

Sorry, comment time is over.