NTSB: Helicopter rotated 360 degrees before crash



Surveillance video shows that a Seattle news helicopter began rotating at takeoff before it pitched forward into a fiery crash that killed both men aboard and burned a third on the ground, the National Transportation Safety Board said late Friday as it released a preliminary report on the crash.

Video culled from three security camera recordings near the crash site shows the aircraft began rotating counterclockwise during takeoff Tuesday morning and rose slightly from a helipad atop a Seattle building, the agency said. The helicopter continued rotating for about 360 degrees before it pitched forward, nose low. It “continued the counterclockwise rotation in a nose low attitude until it disappeared from the camera’s field of view,” the agency said in its one-page statement.

Available video apparently did not show the actual crash on a street next to the Space Needle, where the KOMO-TV chopper burst into flames, setting several vehicles ablaze.

Multiple witnesses previously reported seeing the helicopter lift off and begin a counterclockwise rotation. They indicated the fire began after the crash, the NTSB said.

The wreck killed both men on board — pilot Gary Pfitzner and former KOMO photographer Bill Strothman. The two worked for Helicopters Inc., of Cahokia, Ill., which owned the Eurocopter AS350 aircraft.

A Seattle man in a car, Richard Newman, was seriously burned when the helicopter crashed and burned.

The agency cautioned that the report was preliminary information and subject to change. The initial report did not attempt to pinpoint a cause of the crash. A final report could take as long as a year, NTSB officials have said.