KOMO news helicopter rotated before falling, report says

The Seattle TimesMarch 21, 2014 

APTOPIX News Chopper Crash

Witnesses said they saw KOMO news helicopter lift off from the helipad Tuesday at KOMO headquarters near Seattle Center, then pitch forward before falling into an occupied vehicle.

JORDAN STEAD — SeattlePI.com/AP

The National Transportation Safety Board on Friday released its preliminary report into Tuesday’s crash of a KOMO news helicopter near Seattle Center, but what caused the copter to go down remained unknown.

The safety board says a preliminary review of three security camera recordings shows the helicopter began rotating counterclockwise during its takeoff sequence Tuesday morning and rose slightly before it pitched forward in a “nose-low attitude.”

None of the videos shows the actual crash, the report says.

The surveillance footage is consistent with reports given by many witnesses, who said they saw the helicopter lift off from the helipad at KOMO’s headquarters near Seattle Center, then pitch forward before falling into an occupied vehicle near the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Broad Street, the report says.

Before the crash, the helicopter seemed to be level, the report says. It then began to rotate and made a full rotation before its nose pitched forward.

The helicopter continued to rotate as it fell and dropped out of the view of the cameras, the report says.

The information contained in the one-page report released about 9 p.m. Friday might be changed or corrected when the full investigation into the crash is finished. NTSB officials have said it might take as much as a year to complete their work.

Killed in the crash were pilot Gary Pfitzner, 59, and longtime KOMO photojournalist Bill Strothman, 62.

Richard Newman, a 38-year-old clinical-trials project manager at Genelex, was critically injured when the helicopter came down on his car.

He had the first of what are expected to be multiple surgeries Friday, said Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg.

Newman remains in serious condition in the intensive care unit. He has second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body.

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