NTSB investigating Seattle news chopper crash

Credit: Credit: @meelataruc

A news helicopter crashed on four vehicles near Seattle Center in Seattle, March 18, 2014.


by Nina Mehlhaf, KGW Staff


Posted on March 19, 2014 at 12:24 PM

SEATTLE -- The National Transportation Safety Bureau is now looking into a strange noise heard just before a Seattle news helicopter crashed Tuesday near the Space Needle.

The helicopter had been out Tuesday morning covering news and traffic in a shared agreement with KOMO-TV and KING5-TV television stations.

It had landed to re-fuel on the top of the KOMO-TV news building in Fisher Plaza, and was taking off for Renton, Wash.

The KOMO-TV staff said they were used to hearing the chopper coming and going. But employees heard a strange "whining" sound that didn't seem right just before the crash.

NTSB investigators are looking into the possibility the main rotor of the helicopter somehow hit the tail.

News photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner were killed instantly when it plummeted five stories down.

"I know for a fact that Gary was doing everything he could to regain or maintain control of that air craft and steer it away from people on the ground," said former KOMO-TV pilot Clark Stahl. "I know that was the last thing he was doing."

A third man, who was in one of the cars that caught fire, is still in intensive care. Richard Newman, 38, was upgraded to serious condition with second and third-degree burns.

The NTSB will have their first report done in about five days, but the complete investigation could take up to a year.