NTSB probe in TV chopper crash looks at pilot, weather, cranes

Credit: KING

Two people were killed when a KOMO News helicopter crashed near Seattle Center, March 18, 2014.

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

kgw.com

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 3:08 AM

SEATTLE, Wash. -- National Transportation Safety Board officials briefed the public Wednesday about their investigation into the cause of a deadly news helicopter crash on Tuesday morning.

Investigators have been pouring over evidence in the last 24 hours, including conversations between the helicopter pilot and nearby construction crane operators.

"Right now we're looking at all the scenarios," NTSB Deputy Regional Chief Dennis Hogenson said Wednesday at the briefing. "We are focusing on the engine, the air frame and the pilot, as well as the environment. We've had a number of reports of the construction cranes in the area, and we are trying to link all of these pieces together."

Investigators are mapping out where the cranes are located in the area and talking with the crane operators.

More: Photos of fiery helicopter crash

"One of the crane operators was in contact with the pilot on the previous approach and landing. They had two-way radio communications. Apparently that's very common for the helicopters working in and out of the area," said Hogenson.

He said Seattle Police are going through their surveillance video, and on Thursday morning, investigators will meet with them to review the footage.

"A lot of the footage that we're seeing does not actually capture the events leading up to the acccident," said Hogenson. "We have footage that we've seen that showed the helicopter prior to the event, the helicopter landing and the previous approach."

Investigators are also interviewing the many witnesses to the accident and going through cell phone video and photos.

Hogenson said the team of investigators is working on the wreckage layout, and that's expected to take several days. They will remove the engine and examine it, then ship it to the manufacturer.

More: Crash unfolds on social media

The NTSB hopes to have a preliminary report finished by Monday at the latest with a full investigation complete for about a year.

Investigators said the helicopter carrying Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner crashed just after taking off from Fisher Plaza, home of KOMO-TV, and crashed on the street nearby. Three vehicles were hit, sending one man to the hospital with burns to 20 percent of his body.

The aircraft was being operated by Helicopters, Inc. KING 5 shares with KOMO the cost of the helicopter and video service provided by Helicopters, Inc.

The man who was injured, 38-year-old Richard Newman, is in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center. As of Wednesday morning, Newman was conscious, breathing on his own and improving, according to the hospital.

The memorial outside KOMO's building at Fisher Plaza continued to grow. Flowers, candles and more filled the table, beside which stood pictures of Strothman and Pfitzner.

Strothman won 13 Emmys and worked for KOMO from 1979-2008, but left to freelance and has been employed by Helicopters, Inc. since 2008.

Pfitzner worked at Boeing's development center in Tukwila and, in his spare time, flew helicopters and gave flying lessons.

 

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Mike Benner contributed to this report

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