Tail Rotor Eyed in Seattle Helicopter Crash

 - March 20, 2014, 3:00 PM

NTSB investigators are examining the tail-rotor drive assembly following the fatal crash of a 2003 Airbus Helicopters AS350B2–registered as N250FB–that plunged from its sixth-floor helipad to a Seattle street on Tuesday morning. Pilot Gary Pfitzner, 59, and cameraman Bill Strothman, 62, were killed in the crash, and a person on the ground was seriously injured.

The aircraft was owned by Helicopters Inc. of Cahokia, Ill., a provider of television electronic newsgathering helicopters, and being flown for television station KOMO. The pilot and photographer were also working for Helicopters, according to KOMO, which had contracted for the aircraft while its own helicopter was being updated.

The AStar was lifting off from the television station’s elevated helipad at 7:40 a.m., when, according to witnesses, it began to wobble and/or became hung up on cables and made a “strange noise” before crashing onto Broad Street and igniting, sending lit fuel running down slope, destroying two cars and a pickup truck and severely burning one motorist.

Helicopters Inc. had owned N250FB since 2007.