NTSB focus includes surveillance video of helicopter crash

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 7:27 AM

SEATTLE -- Federal investigators say they are going through witness statements and surveillance videos as the investigation continues into the helicopter crash that killed a news photographer and pilot Tuesday.

The Eurostar AS350-B2 carrying Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner crashed just after taking off from Fisher Plaza, home of KOMO TV, and onto the street near the base of the Space Needle. Three vehicles were hit, sending one man to the hospital with burns to 20 percent of his body.

"Right now we're looking at all the scenarios," NTSB Deputy Regional Chief Dennis Hogenson said Wednesday at a press briefing. "We are focusing on the engine, the air frame and the pilot, as well as the environment. We've had a number of reports of the construction cranes in the area and we are trying to link all of these pieces together."

Hogenson said the team of investigators is working on the wreckage layout, and that's expected to take several days. They will remove the engine and examine it, then ship it to the manufacturer.

The bad news is that because some of the helicopter was composite, made from carbon fiber and plastic resin, much of it burned in fire after the crash.

Investigators will also look at the helipad and look at the relationship between the helipad and nearby construction cranes.

Investigators are mapping out the where cranes are located in the area and talking with the crane operators.

"One of the crane operators was in contact with the pilot on the previous approach and landing. They had two-way radio communications. Apparently that's very common for the helicopters working in and out of the area," said Hogenson.

He said Seattle Police are going through their surveillance video and on Thursday morning investigators will meet with them to review the footage.

"A lot of the footage that we're seeing does not actually capture the events leading up to the accident," said Hogenson. "We have footage that we've seen that showed the helicopter prior to the event, the helicopter landing and the previous approach."

Investigators are also interviewing the many witnesses to the accident and going through cell phone video and photos.

Witnesses reported hearing unusual noises coming from the aircraft as it lifted off from the helipad on top of Fisher Plaza, KOMO's headquarters, after refueling. Witnesses also reported seeing the helicopter rotate before it crashed.

Hogenson said a preliminary report would be released within five days of the accident and a final report is typically completed in a year.

"I'm confident that we're going to figure this out," he said.

The aircraft was being operated by Helicopters, Inc. KING 5 shares with KOMO the cost of the helicopter and video service provided by Helicopters, Inc.

The man who was injured, 38-year-old Richard Newman, is in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center. As of Wednesday morning, Newman was conscious, breathing on his own and improving, according to the hospital.

The memorial outside KOMO's building at Fisher Plaza continued to grow. Flowers, candles and more filled the table, beside which stood pictures of Strothman and Pfitzner.

Strothman won 13 Emmys and worked for KOMO from 1979-2008, but left to freelance and has been employed by Helicopters, Inc. since 2008.

Pfitzner worked at Boeing's development center in Tukwila and, in his spare time, flew helicopters and gave flying lessons.

Funeral service Saturday

KOMO announced that the funeral service for Pfitzner will be held Saturday at noon at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 220 Mountain Park Blvd in Issaquah.
 
In lieu of flowers, the family would like contributions made, in Gary's name, to the Moyer Foundation for kids who are in need or are suffering from loss.
 

 

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