UPDATE 3:47 p.m.: The two people who died in the Seattle news helicopter crash Tuesday morning have been identified as Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner.
KOMO reports that Strothman was a former photographer for its station and worked as a freelancer. Pfitzner was the pilot of the helicopter. Both were employees of Helicopters Inc., operating the chopper under a lease with KOMO. Another television station, KING-5, leases aircrafts from the company as well.
KING-5 identified another person injured in the crash as Richard Newman, 38. A hospital spokesperson told the station that Newman is now in serious condition and is suffering from second- and third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body. A man and woman whose cars were involved in the crash are both OK.
At a press conference this afternoon, NTSB Deputy Regional Chief Dennis Hogenson said the helicopter was coming in from Covington to refuel. It was taking off again when witnesses say the chopper “made an unusual ‘whining’ noise, turned counter-clockwise and crashed.”
NTSB will look into a number of factors that could have caused the crash. Hogenson said the preliminary report would take around five days.
UPDATE 10:08 a.m.: The two people who died in the Seattle Center area helicopter crash Tuesday morning were on board the chopper, Seattle Fire Department spokesperson Kyle Moore said at a press conference.
Fire department officials said the person critically injured in the crash is a 37-year-old man who was apparently in one of the cars that was stuck by the helicopter. The man has been taken to the hospital and is suffering from burns on 50 percent of his body.
They haven’t found anyone else in the wreckage.
It was unclear from early news reports if the helicopter was taking off or landing, but Moore said he was told the copter was taking off when it tumbled to the ground.
KING-5 reports that the crash occurred around 7:45 a.m. on Broad Street, near the KOMO station and the Seattle Space Needle.
Investigators from FAA and NTSB will look into the accident.
UPDATE 8:40 a.m.: A news helicopter crash near Seattle’s Space Needle has left two people dead, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
KING-5 reports, the helicopter attempted to land and tumbled to the ground, striking three cars. A third person has been taken to the hospital and is in critical condition, news reports say.
UPDATE: The Seattle Fire Department says two are dead in a helicopter crash this morning near Seattle’s Space Needle.
A news helicopter for KOMO-TV has crashed outside its station near the Seattle Space Needle.
The station says the copter was apparently coming in for a landing on its rooftop Tuesday morning when it possibly hit the side of the building and went down, hitting several vehicles on Broad Street.
The copter and cars exploded in flames and casualties were reported.
People in the area reported seeing a huge cloud of smoke as firefighters and police responded.
Helicopter crash and three cars fires near space needle. pic.twitter.com/5ACUKB2wge— Seattle Fire Dept (@SeattleFire) March 18, 2014
Medics transporting an approx 37 yo male to HMC in critical condition self extricated from car pic.twitter.com/hhVAX0qmbs— Seattle Fire Dept (@SeattleFire) March 18, 2014
The helicopter crash is right outside the @komonews studio near Seattle Center. Again, please avoid the area if possible.— WSDOT Traffic (@wsdot_traffic) March 18, 2014
#BREAKING KOMO News Helicopter crash in downtown Seattle, at least 2 cars hit, no word on injuries— NorthWest Cable News (@NWCN) March 18, 2014
Chopper tail visible amid the smoke & car wreckage pic.twitter.com/uZ57DibreU— Kelly Koopmans (@KellyKOMO4) March 18, 2014
AP contributed to this report