News Copter Crashes at Base of Space Needle


     SEATTLE (CN) - Black smoke and the smell of burning fuel filled downtown Seattle Tuesday after a television news helicopter crashed below the Space Needle, killing the pilot and photojournalist on board and injuring a third person on the ground. The KOMO-TV helicopter was taking off from a nearby heliport, then plunged to the earth, destroying three cars on the street below.
     Occupants of two of the cars escaped, but a third person was seen running on fire from one of the vehicles, according to local media accounts. Emergency workers extinguished the flames and the man is listed in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center, reports say.
     Killed were photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner. Strothman had been with KOMO News for "many years" according to the station's website and had earned 13 Emmy awards during his career.
     An investigation is currently underway and officials with the National Traffic Safety Board are at the scene.
     NTSB Deputy Regional Chief Dennis Hogenson said at a press conference that witness heard the helicopter make an unusual "whining" sound just before it crashed.