Gary Pfitzner, Bill Strothman die in Seattle helicopter crash

Seattle TV station KOMO has identified the two people killed in a news helicopter crash near the Space Needle during rush hour this morning.

Pilot and longtime KOMO news photographer killed in crash soon after takeoff

Former longtime KOMO News photographer Bill Strothman was identified Tuesday as one of two victims killed when the station's helicopter crashed. (Courtesy KOMO News)

Seattle TV station KOMO has identified the two people killed when a news helicopter crashed near the Space Needle during rush hour this morning.

The pilot, Gary Pfitzner, worked for the helicopter leasing company that operates the KOMO News chopper.

Pilot Gary Pfitzner worked for the helicopter leasing company that operates the KOMO News chopper. (Courtesy KOMO News)

On the KOMO News' website, anchor and reporter Molly Shen said KOMO employees remember him as always smiling.

"He loved what he did, loved to be able to fly and be up there above the city and see things from a perspective that most of us don't get to see," she said.

The other man killed was Bill Strothman, a former longtime KOMO photographer who was working as a freelancer and as an employee of the helicopter leasing company after retiring from KOMO.​

"Strothman worked for many years at KOMO News and was well-known to many of the employees, earning 13 Emmy awards during his career," KOMO News said on its website.

"We all know him as one of the best storytellers to have ever graced the halls of KOMO," Shen said.

The helicopter the men were in was a replacement for the station's regular helicopter, which was getting serviced. The replacement was also shared with Seattle's KING 5 TV, according to reports.

Man critically injured by fire

The crash happened Tuesday morning as the KOMO-TV helicopter took off from the station shortly after 7:40 a.m. PT.

The helicopter went down on Broad Street and hit three vehicles, starting them on fire and spewing burning fuel down the street.

The Seattle Fire Department says a 37-year-old man in one of the vehicles was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.

The helicopter landed on a car and both burst into flames. (Tim Williams/Twitter)

Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said the man suffered burns on up to 20 per cent of his body and likely will require surgery.

The drivers of two other vehicles caught in the fire reportedly walked away from the scene.

Emergency crews and investigators are on the scene, and the area is closed to traffic.

Google Map: Seattle Space Needle

YouTube: Video of the crash

With files from The Associated Press