Two people were killed after a television news helicopter was involved in a fiery crash near the Space Needle in Seattle on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Police and fire personnel responded to the crash scene before 7:50 a.m., according to a tweet from the Seattle Police Department.
After returning from an earlier flight, the helicopter had returned to the area to refuel, according to Deputy Regional Chief Dennis Hogenson of the National Transportation Safety Board.
“Shortly after they refueled, they departed. Witnesses described the helicopter lifted off from the building and began to rotate counter-clockwise and subsequently crashed,” Hogenson said.
Video from the scene showed the charred wreckage of the helicopter and at least two cars that sustained damages.
Three cars caught fire near the scene, according to Seattle fire officials.
A witness told a news reporter from local station KOMO that one person was on fire when they crawled out of a car, the station tweeted.
A 37-year-old man was transported to a local hospital in critical condition, according to a tweet from the Seattle Fire Department.
Another motorist whose car caught fire after the crash was located by police and had not sustained any injures, fire officials said.
One of the people killed in the crash was identified as Bill Strothman, a videographer who had won 13 Emmy Awards, according to KOMO.
Strothman’s son was also a photographer for the station, KOMO reporter Keith Eldridge said in a tweet.
The other victim was identified by KOMO as pilot Gary Pfitzner.
Earlier, the station tweeted, “This is a blow to us internally, though they were not our employees, we consider them family.”
The helicopter that crashed was used in joint partnership between KOMO and another location station, KING, Tribune-affiliate Q 13 Fox News in Seattle reported.
“Thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers for our colleagues,” a tweet from KING read.
KOMO is located across from the Space Needle, while KING is about a mile away from the landmark Seattle structure.
In the wake of the crash, the news director of KIRO — another television station in the Seattle market — announced the station would ground its helicopter “pending a thorough review of flight safety.”
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB were looking into the cause of the crash.
It was the worst incident involving a news aircraft since 2007, when two helicopters collided in mid-air during coverage of a car chase in Phoenix. Two pilots and two photographers were killed in that crash.
“The biggest time of a problem is when one of those high-speed pursuits comes to an end, because now all those helicopters are coming to a stop.” said Tim Lynn, a KTLA pilot-reporter. “That’s where you really have to pay attention.”
Lynn was flying Sky5 in August 2012 when the helicopter’s oil system began to malfunction and smoke began to spew from the engine. He landed safely.