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KOMO News helicopter crashes near Space Needle, two dead

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Photo: Video by wtmj.com

KOMO News helicopter crashes near Space Needle, two dead

By Julianne Cassidy. CREATED Mar 18, 2014

A KOMO News helicopter dramatically fell from the sky just yards away from Seattle's landmark Space Needle Tuesday morning, killing two victims in its fiery path. 

Veteran KOMO News photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner have officially been identified as the victims. Strothman worked at KOMO News and retired to pursue freelance work and an opportunity with Helicopters, Inc., the company that operated the chopper used by KOMO and employed Pfitzner.

Two cars and a pickup truck on the road were hit by the falling chopper around 7:40 a.m. (PT.) "Huge flames and plumes of black smoke poured from the burning wreckage, about 50 yards from the base of the Space Needle. Fuel gushing from the wreckage caught fire and burned for a block from the crash scene," reports KOMO News. "The Seattle Fire Department said two people were found dead in the wreckage. A third person was rushed to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of critical injuries."

KOMO also reports, "Witnesses said a man could be seen running from from one car with his sleeve on fire, and he was extinguished by officers at the scene." This man was later identified as Richard Newman, 3, with "severe burns on his lower back and arm, covering up to 20 percent of his body."

Traffic on Broad Street was rerouted as the investigation continued. The fireball was extinguished within a half-hour.
 
At this time it is unconfirmed what caused the KOMO News helicopter to plummet. Witnesses said the helicopter crashed as it was taking off from the roof of Fisher Plaza, across the street from the Space Needle.
 
"It looked like the helicopter was trying to take off, and it just was trying to stabilize and it looked odd ... and it just took a nose dive right down there on the street," one eyewitness told KOMO.
 
Click HERE to view our GALLERY of the tragic accident.