UPDATED: Two people were killed and one was critically injured when the KOMO Seattle helicopter crashed and burned during takeoff Tuesday morning near the base of the city's iconic Space Needle. KOMO photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner died in the accident. Strothman had retired from KOMO and worked at Helicopters, Inc., and on a freelance basis for KOMO.
"We all know him as one of the best storytellers to have ever graced the halls of KOMO," said anchor Molly Shen on KOMONews.com. "It felt like a loss for us because he knows his craft so well, and he's such an artist and such a great journalist."
His son Dan is a photojournalist at KOMO.
Pfitzner was also employed by Helicopters, Inc., but was a familiar sight to KOMO employees, said the station. "He always had a smile on his face," Shen said. "He loved what he did, loved to be able to fly and be up there above the city and see things from a perspective that most of us don't get to see."
KOMO shared the helicopter with Gannett's KING.
Witnesses told KOMO the helicopter crashed as it was taking off from the helipad on the roof of Fisher Plaza, across the street from the Space Needle.
"We are deeply saddened by this tragedy," said Janene Drafs, general manager of KOMO. "The pilot and the photographer who lost their lives were like family to us, here at the station. We are grieving for them, their families and the on-ground victims who were injured in this horrific event."
Drafs thanked Seattle's other stations for their emotional and logistical support.
Sinclair acquired KOMO from Fisher last year.
“Words cannot express the sympathy and sadness we feel for the victims who lost their lives in today’s tragedy and for their families,” said Ray Heacox, KING president and general manager. “We grieve this afternoon with the entire Seattle community and our thoughts are with all those affected.”
The FAA and NTSB are investigating.