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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Update: KOMO Loses Longtime Camera Operator In Helicopter Tragedy

Posted by on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 1:59 PM

KOMO has shared that Bill Strothman, the camera operator for Air 4, was one of the two people killed in the tragic helicopter crash today near the Space Needle. They are sharing his life and love today, and have posted some photos of him on Twitter as they work through their grief on this sad, sad day.

Strothman won 13 regional Emmy awards over the course of his career. His son, a photographer, also works at KOMO.

Pilot Gary Pfitzner was also killed in the crash. Our hearts are breaking for these families.

Mayor Murray says the Space Needle and Monorail are closed—please stay away from the surrounding area if you don't have to be there.

UPDATE: You can watch KOMO News Live for more information as it happens.

UPDATE: The 38-year old man who was in his car when the helicopter fell on it has burns over 15-20% of his body, and is currently in the ICU, awaiting surgery.

UPDATE: Michael Harthorne, KOMO reporter, took these photos from his window at KOMO HQ this morning.

Absolute tragedy.

  • Michael Harthorne/KOMO News

  • Michael Harthorne/KOMO News

  • Michael Harthorne/KOMO News


Comments (23) RSS

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Geraldo Riviera 1
Dude was a freelancer, not a komo employee.
Posted by Geraldo Riviera on March 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Gary Pfitzner was 59, lived in Issaquah, and was a respected pilot with Helicopters NW in Seattle.
Posted by More than a footnote on March 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM · Report this

Strothman was a long-time KOMO photographer and very well-known in the local broadcast community. He had been in semi-retirement, and just recently came back to freelance for Heli, Inc.

It's a very rough day for the news community in Seattle; deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones today, and good thoughts out to the burn victim at Harborview for a full recovery.
Posted by COMTE on March 18, 2014 at 11:50 AM · Report this
laterite 4
How horrible; RIP.
Posted by laterite on March 18, 2014 at 11:51 AM · Report this
5 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
This is incredibly sad news. My heart goes out to all the journalists at KOMO, the survivor in critical condition, and the families of everyone involved.
Posted by Christopher Frizzelle on March 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Isn't the Space Needle private property? How the heck can the mayor close somebody's private business down on a whim?
Posted by How in the... on March 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 8
@5: No, and that complaint is quite indicative of something out of whack in your life. You're stressed out over something.

@7: Yes but does have an executive authority in some respect - but I imagine the Space Needle feels the same way. Having looky-loos rushing to have lunch at the Space Needle and gawk at the tragedy. No.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 18, 2014 at 12:25 PM · Report this 9
Strothman was also the father-in-law of medical marijuana activist and lobbyist Kari Boiter. Sad day; sending positive prayers.
Posted by on March 18, 2014 at 12:41 PM · Report this
rob! 10
Google Street View (July 2011) shows a taxi stand at the precise spot where the copter hit, and an open-topped double-decker Gray Line tour bus a little further back. But really, almost any location downtown could have been packed with people at some time or another.

Why can't news helicopters be required to operate out of an actual airport like BFI, instead of rooftop helipads?
Posted by rob! on March 18, 2014 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Glasgow, and now this. Beginning to think maybe flying these contraptions over crowded cities is not the greatest idea.
Posted by Chris Jury on March 18, 2014 at 2:45 PM · Report this
JonnoN 12
@11 and how many people have been killed by cars in the same time? Maybe they shouldn't be allowed either.
Posted by JonnoN on March 18, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
rob! 13
Even for helicopters, which can theoretically hover in control, landings and takeoffs are the most dangerous times, so maybe they should take place at airports where a) there are spatial buffers and b) crash-response-specific equipment available.
Posted by rob! on March 18, 2014 at 3:04 PM · Report this
rob! 14
SEATTLE (AP) - The city of Seattle will re-examine its policy on helicopter landing pads in response to Tuesday's fatal crash at a busy downtown intersection.

Mayor Ed Murray said at a news conference hours after the wreck that Seattle's regulations on helipads changed at least 20 years ago, when the city instituted more rules and limited where helicopters could take off and land...

...The mayor's office confirmed there are about 12 helipads in Seattle, but spokesman Jeff Reading said the office doesn't track them.

Current rules allow helipads to be used downtown and in some commercial zones and industrial areas. They can be used only for public service, emergency medical care and for news agencies, Reading said.

City Council approval is required for new locations. Before 1990, helipads also were allowed for private use...
Posted by rob! on March 18, 2014 at 4:10 PM · Report this
As I recall the last round of regulation of heliports in Seattle was a result of nimbyism from people in Laurelhurst upset about Children's planning on building a new one.

The helipad locations I can think of are:
Children's Hospital, not routinely used
Graves Field (just South of UW golf driving range), frequent medevac traffic to UWMC and Children's
Seattle Police Harbor Base (just West of Gaswork's Park), former base for SPD heli. but not used now
Harborview Hospital, serves all the hospitals on First Hill
Posted by restlessnative on March 18, 2014 at 7:02 PM · Report this
I think the phrase "also killed" was a little insensitive.
Posted by sarah70 on March 18, 2014 at 8:13 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 17
The Westin had a helipad when I worked there (one million years ago), and for a time there was a rich bore who used to arrive to work via helicopter in some building over by the old City Light Building.

My thoughts go out to the families of the deceased, and for that chap who survives, but I really don't think we need to revisit helipads. As long as they are for the greater good (hospitals and media outlets) the benefits outweigh the risks.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on March 18, 2014 at 8:57 PM · Report this
DOUG. 18
@17: How does a media helipad serve "the greater good"?

Local "news" is shit. And a helicopter is a vehicle for sensationalizing that shit. It's a shame these people died for that.
Posted by DOUG. on March 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 19
@18: I'm sorry that you think of news photography as s**t. When the big one rocks Seattle, I'm sure you'll want to tune in.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 18, 2014 at 10:37 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 20
@17: Remember Trader Vic's there? Oh those drinks!
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 18, 2014 at 10:42 PM · Report this
@16, agreed. Plus the fact that it took until the third paragraph to mention the pilot. But maybe that's because this is an update, the original version could have been better.
Posted by portland scribe on March 19, 2014 at 12:12 AM · Report this
Nieuw Hollander 22
@19 Unmanned drones can do the same thing but at less risk and with less noise pollution.

There's also no reason at all for news helicopters to be landing downtown, ever. There's no tape to rush to the control room anymore, the downlinks are live and wireless. Move the damn things to Boeing Field.
Posted by Nieuw Hollander on March 19, 2014 at 1:57 AM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 23
Oh Phoebe, those were the days, weren't they? And if you go tired of Trader Vic's you could go to the in-house discotheque (Fitzgerald's on Fifth) or the Wine Bar on the mezzanine. Or even a big name act in the Westlake Room.

The Westin in 1980 was a far cry from the glorified Holiday Inn it is today.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on March 19, 2014 at 2:27 PM · Report this

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