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Fatal News Helicopter Crash At Seattle Center, Injured Man Improving

[asset-audio[{"description": "Steve Scher talks with KUOW reporter Patricia Murphy about the latest update on Tuesday's helicopter crash.", "fid": "18833", "uri": "npraudio://201403/318CRASH.mp3"}]]

[asset-audio[{"description": "KUOW's Bill Radke interviews Mike Thielen, helicopter pilot and president of Glacier Aviation, Inc. in Olympia.", "fid": "18783", "uri": "npraudio://201403/0318THIELEN.mp3"}]]

An investigation is underway as the National Transportation Safety Board tries to determine what caused the news helicopter to crash near the Space Needle on Tuesday morning, killing two people and injuring one.

NTSB has released a preliminary report on the crash.. The full report will take about a year to complete according to NTSB estimates.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that the city will also be reviewing rules of helicopter pads in the city.

KOMO News identified the two victims killed in the crash as veteran photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner. They were both on board the helicopter, leased by KOMO News, when it crashed shortly after taking off around 7:40 a.m.

The chopper caught on fire after it struck three nearby cars, including the one driven by 38-year-old Richard Newman.

Newman was transported to Harborview Medical Center and his condition has been upgraded from critical to serious condition with burns covering about 20 percent of his body. 

Newman, who was driving a red car at the time of the crash, was able to free himself out of his car, according to authorities. A female driver of a blue car walked to the local police precinct; the driver of a silver pickup truck walked away from the scene and was later located by police. He was not injured.

NTSB investigator Dennis Hogenson said three investigators were at the scene to interview witnesses and that the wreckage will be laid out in a hangar in Auburn as part of the NTSB investigation.

“We learned that the helicopter was on an earlier mission and had returned to this area to refuel. Shortly after they refueled, they departed,” Hogenson said. “A witness described that as the helicopter lifted off of building, it began to rotate counterclockwise and subsequently crashed.”

Hogenson said that the 2003 AS 350 Eurocopter was assembled in Grand Prairie, Texas, and is a popular helicopter for newsgathering.

The Seattle Center Monorail began operations again on Wednesday, along with the Space Needle, EMP, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Seattle Children's Museum.

Eyewitness Accounts

[asset-audio[{"description": "Justin Rabung, who works at Car Toys near Seattle Center, arrived to work just after the helicopter went down and was at the crash site before fire, police and other emergency responders. He described to KUOW reporter Liz Jones about what he saw in those minutes soon after the incident.", "fid": "18801", "uri": "public://201403/Jones-rabung_0.mp3"}]][asset-audio[{"description": "KUOW reporter Ann Dornfeld spoke with Meela Taru who witnessed the immediate aftermath of the crash.", "fid": "18800", "uri": "public://201403/Gates-eye-witness_0.mp3"}]][asset-audio[{"description": "KUOW reporter Liz Jones talked with people who work near Fisher Plaza, where the helicopter crashed. She asked if they have any heightened safety concerns on working near an area where helicopters frequently take off and land. The voice at the end was Pamela Hayden who provides traffic control at a construction site across from Fisher Plaza. We also heard from iron worker Keith Madden. The other woman in the clip declined to release her name.", "fid": "18794", "uri": "public://201403/Jones-safety.mp3"}]][asset-audio[{"description": "KOMO News Radio reporter Corwin Haeck was at Fisher Plaza when he heard the crash and saw the wreckage.", "fid": "18814", "uri": "public://201403/haeck.mp3"}]]Justin Rabung's Video