News 'Copter Crashes In Seattle (Updated)

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Photo: KOMO News

Photo: KOMO News

A news helicopter used by television station KOMO crashed in downtown Seattle early Tuesday and initial reports said at least two people died. The aircraft had just taken off from the rooftop helipad of KOMO's building on Broad Street, a main downtown street, when it apparently hit the side of the building and fell in flames to the street below. At least three cars were set on fire and early reports said one man crawled from a burning car and was rescued by paramedics. He suffered severe burns but is improving in hospital. 

The crash occurred about 7:40 during the morning rush and happened next to the landmark Space Needle in the heart of the city. The helicopter was an Airbus AS350 owned by Helicopters Inc. of Illinois and leased jointly by KOMO and KING5, another Seattle TV station. It was being used temporarily by the stations while their own helicopter, a Bell 206, was being upgraded. The pilot, Gary Pfitzner of Issaquah, Wash., and former longtime KOMO photographer Bill Strothman were killed in the crash. Airbus Helicopters issued a statement Wednesday saying it was cooperating with the investigation.