West Seattle, Washington
9:42 PM: We have been chasing reports of a helicopter for half an hour and have finally found Guardian One over the Greenbridge area. We have just found sheriff’s deputies to ask on the ground – they say it’s a “possible armed robbery suspect” from a White Center business.
10:19 PM: Commenters say the chopper’s gone – we left the area it was circling (the wetland just west of Greenbridge) in hopes of finding the reported robbery target, described as a produce stand, but didn’t see anything on the ground along any of the main business streets. Will follow up with KCSO tomorrow.
10:41 PM: Via Twitter, the Guardian One team says the suspect they were seeking was not found. Description: “… male … about 5’9″, wearing a red hoody, blue jeans, wearing a black beanie.”
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: KCSO spokesperson Sgt. Cindi West says, “(Last night) at about 8:40 pm at the Best Roasted Corn Stand on the corner of SW 98th and 15 Av Sw: A male suspect walked up to the stand, displayed a handgun and demanded money. The suspect also demanded the employees cell phone. The suspect fled on foot. The suspect spoke to the victim in Spanish. He was described as a Hispanic male, skinny, about 5’8″ tall, mid 40’s and was wearing a red sweatshirt, blue jeans and a black beanie. The victim has seen him in the area before.”
8:01 PM: There’s a major “heavy rescue” response on the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct right now around 4th Avenue South. A texter tells us a car is on or into the divider, so it might be affecting westbound traffic too. More as we get it.
8:15 PM: From SFD via Twitter:
Heavy rescue EB West Seattle Freeway at the gore point. Car on 2 wheels. Firefighters extricated patient in critical condition
— Seattle Fire Dept (@SeattleFire) March 19, 2014
We’re at the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting right now – look for the wrapup later. Two things to report right now:
WONDERED WHAT WAS UP AT 16TH/HOLDEN TONIGHT? Big police response there around 6 pm – couldn’t find out anything at the time, but we asked Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith here at the WSCPC meeting. He says it was an operation involving Bellevue Police and a suspect who lives in West Seattle – and when they made a request for assistance from SPD, it was misinterpreted as a “help the officer” call, which means “everybody rush there, an officer’s in trouble.” So there was a big but not-needed response for a bit. We’ll be checking with Bellevue PD tomorrow to see if they can tell us more about what they’re doing over here – we do recall a case or two in the past.
(added, 10:56 pm) BELLEVUE POLICE IN HIGHLAND PARK AGAIN: We won’t be able to find out until tomorrow if this was related, but not far from 16th/Holden, the Bellevue SWAT team served a warrant tonight:
One of the people who tipped us e-mailed about seeing that van go by around 9:30: “They stopped between the 7200/7400 block of 16th Ave SW (west side) … lights on … SWAT team in motion. We heard, “police search warrant, open up” (several times). 10 minutes later we still heard those same police requests (have to assume backup was also on the west side of this house).” Might just be a coincidence, but this is the same general vicinity where Bellevue Police made an ID-theft bust last year.
(back to original report) STOLEN CAR: Ashley reports, “My car was stolen from my driveway last night between midnight and 6 am. 6300 block of 42nd Ave SW. It is a white Hyundai Tucson. Michigan plates. 1FRN69. I already reported it to police, but I thought other people might be able to help as well.” Call 911 if you see it.
Don’t just sit there – ‘get civic’! That’s the message we were asked to share with you by Mat McBride, chair of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, in advance of its monthly meeting tomorrow night:
After reading multiple comments about civics education (and lack thereof) for both kids and adults on WSB, the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council decided to engage. It’s not uncommon for City Councilmembers to attend our meetings, but usually it’s to announce a particular initiative. As our political climate is changing we feel that inviting all of our councilmembers to attend is important for two reasons: for them to get to know (better) the eastern half of our beautiful peninsula, and to get to know You (the people they work for). Our first representative in this series is Sally Clark, whose bio and committee info can be found here.
District Council meetings are always open to the public. But I want to specifically encourage you to take this opportunity to lean in. Having a personal, intimate conversation with your elected, policy-making representative is both powerful and empowering. All ages are welcome (one of my fondest memories is of a young man – working on a civics merit badge – who came to a DNDC meeting and had a great dialogue, with again, Sally Clark). So bring your questions, bring your ideas, and get engaged. Get civic.
Here are five more reasons to do that: The newest applications for the Parks and Neighborhood Streets Fund, which DNDC will review tomorrow night before making recommendations to the city on which to prioritize for potential funding. These are community-member-proposed projects and they’re not big enough to trigger further levels of meetings/feedback so this is when to take a look. The application docs are linked below:
*Rapid flashing beacons for 11th/Holden
*26th Avenue SW Greenway crosswalks
*5950 Delridge Way crossing
*Planning/design study for Puget Boulevard Trail
*Roxhill Park improvements
*SW Juneau staircase improvements
Check out the council at 7 pm Wednesday (March 19th), Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW).
Though the Morgan Junction murder trial was called off for the day, we stayed at the courthouse for a plea hearing in another West Seattle case. Indeed, the three men charged in the Arbor Heights and Fauntleroy street robberies last August 21st have just appeared before King County Superior Court Judge Carol Schapira to plead guilty as charged: 22-year-old Hassan I. Abdirizak, 19-year-old Abdulkamir A. Ahmed, and 22-year-old Najib A. Aden. Each was charged with two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of attempted first-degree robbery – for a Beacon Hill incident the same night as well as the two in West Seattle.
None are West Seattle residents. Aden has been out of jail since November, while Abdirizak and Ahmed have remained in custody. Months ago, there was talk they might face charges in robberies elsewhere in the city, but as part of the plea bargain, no additional charges were or will be filed, and each pleaded guilty to the three original charges. Prosecutors will recommend what equals a 68-month (just over five and a half years) sentence – the top end of the “standard” range for 1st-degree robbery – for each one when they are sentenced, followed by 18 months’ community custody (probation). The sentencing hearing is scheduled for 1 pm April 18th.
Two community meetings tonight that we want to mention before it’s too late:
FAUNTLEROY ‘FOOD FEST’: Bites from local eateries are an incentive offered by the Fauntleroy Community Association to get nearby residents to its annual membership meeting, part information fair, part mingling opportunity, part election, as previewed here, all starting at 6 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy. (9131 California SW)
WEST SEATTLE CRIME PREVENTION COUNCIL: WSCPC is scheduled to hear about crime trends from new precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske, and you’re invited to ask about neighborhood concerns. Also, special guests from SPD will talk about recruitment and background checks, as previewed here. 7 pm, Southwest Precinct. (Delridge/Webster)
Two traffic updates, both about Highway 99 closures: First, WSDOT‘s Kris Olsen tells WSB there will be NO 99 closure tonight – the next one is tentatively scheduled for 9 pm Wednesday night-5 am Thursday, East Marginal to Atlantic for Spokane St. Overcrossing re-striping/realignment. Also, WSDOT’s Laura Newborn confirms that the time frame for Saturday’s Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection-followup closure is 4:30 am-7 pm.
11:56 AM: WSDOT assistant secretary David Moseley, who runs Washington State Ferries, has just announced he is leaving after six years. The announcement is in an early edition of his e-mail newsletter, which usually arrives on Fridays. No word yet on a successor.
12:32 PM: Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson promises a “national search” for the next WSF boss.
Monday, the judge was out sick; today, a prosecutor is – so, no court again today in the Morgan Junction murder trial. Whenever it resumes, the prosecution’s final expected witness, Seattle Police Homicide Unit Detective Tim DeVore, will be back on the stand. 69-year-old Lovett “Cid” Chambers is on trial in the January 2012 shooting death of 35-year-old Travis Hood. If you’re catching up on our coverage, our report on Thursday’s proceedings (the most recent day of testimony) includes links to all previous stories.
(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.
(Latest bridge and Viaduct views; more cams on the WSB Traffic page)
Two advisories to start the morning:
ANOTHER HIGHWAY 99 CLOSURE: WSDOT also has another announced closure of Highway 99 between East Marginal and Atlantic for the Spokane St. Overcrossing project’s finishing touches just south of the West Seattle Bridge, 9 pm tonight-5 am Wednesday. (We’ll be verifying this with WSDOT before day’s end, as they have noted it’s weather-dependent and also that there’s a chance the work could be done sooner than expected. We’re also checking with WSDOT today to verify details of the announced closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct for a followup inspection this coming Saturday, March 22nd.)
7:47 AM – DOWNTOWN EMERGENCY: A helicopter is reported to have crashed near the Space Needle/Seattle Center and that’s what the black smoke is downtown. We’re going to break this out separately. Avoid that area.
8:21 AM: Here’s our separate story – all regional news outlets are covering this too; it is reported to have been the KOMO TV helicopter – Channel 4 is right across Broad Street from the crash scene. KIRO and KING also have their headquarters a couple blocks away.
12:59 PM – HIGHWAY 99 UPDATES: *No* closure tonight, WSDOT now says. Tentatively scheduled for tomorrow night. Meantime, the time frame of Saturday’s Alaskan Way Viaduct closure is confirmed for 4:30 am-7 pm.
3:02 PM – SEATTLE CENTER UPDATES: 5th Avenue has reopened. Part of Broad, including the crash scene, has not. This SDOT tweet has the latest.
(Garfield pitcher Owen Vickrey, WSLL alum)
The visiting team was almost a second home team when the Chief Sealth International High School Seahawks opened its baseball season at Roxhill on Monday afternoon. Four of the visiting Garfield High School Bulldogs, as noted in this Garfield-penned online wrapup, are West Seattle Little League alums – winning pitcher Owen Vickrey, catcher Alex Chase, rightfielder Justin Arkills-McLain, and centerfielder Derek Billey. Derek’s father, Garfield assistant varsity coach Dan Billey, alerted us to the this, meaning much familiarity on the field not only during this game, but also when Garfield goes on to play West Seattle HS on Tuesday, since the two on-peninsula teams have former WSLL teammates too. But back to Monday’s game; final score was Garfield 11, Sealth 6.
(Sealth 3rd base, Merle Rowan-Kennedy, WSLL alum)
Chase led Garfield with 5 RBIs:
(Garfield catcher Alex Chase, WSLL alum)
Today’s WSHS-Garfield game is at 4 pm, and Coach Billey notes that too will feature former WSLL teammates turned friendly rivals. He coached many of them along the way starting when they were about 6 and moving on up through state Little League All-Star tournaments in their 9-10, 10-11, and 11-12 days. So head on over to Hiawatha for today’s 3:30 pm game and cheer for everybody.
P.S. Speaking of WSLL, its pre-season jamboree is this Saturday at Bar-S Fields on Alki Point.