UPDATE: News helicopter crashes, burns beside Space Needle

News helicopter crashes, burns beside Space Needle

SEATTLE (KOMO/WACH)- A news helicopter has crashed and he two victims have been identified as former longtime KOMO News photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner. Strothman worked for many years at KOMO News and was well-known to many of the employees.

After retiring from KOMO, he worked as a free-lancer and also as an employee of the helicopter leasing company that operates the KOMO News chopper.

"We all know him as one of the best storytellers to have ever graced the halls of KOMO," said news anchor and reporter Molly Shen. "It felt like a loss for us because he knows his craft so well, and he's such an artist and such a great journalist."

KOMO News anchor Dan Lewis said, "He really knew how his pictures could tell a million words. He put so much into getting just the right shots, the right video, putting it in the right place in the story."

One of things I loved abt Bill Strothman is legacy he leaves behind at KOMO. His son is also a photog here. #family

â?? Lindsay Cohen (@lindsaycohen) March 18, 2014

He is survived by his wife Nora, a daughter, and his son Dan Strothman, who also is a KOMO News photojournalist.

The pilot, Gary Pfitzner, was also employed by the helicopter leasing company that operates Air 4 but was a familiar sight to KOMO News employees.

"He always had a smile on his face," Shen said. "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."

urned Tuesday morning at our sister station in KOMO-TV in Seattle, only feet from the Space Needle.

"He loved what he did, loved to fly." Our dear friend Gary Pfitzner was the pilot in today's crash #LiveOnKOMO

â?? KOMO News (@komonews) March 18, 2014

Two cars were struck in the crash. One man could be seen running from from one of the cars with his sleeve on fire, and he was extinguished by officers at the scene.

Huge flames and plumes of black smoke poured from the burning wreckage. Fuel gushing from the wreckage caught fire and burned for a block from the crash scene.

It was not immediately clear what happened to the helicopter's crew.

Fire crews were able to extinguish the flames with a half-hour. Traffic was diverted from the area.

For more information, to watch what's happening live and to view pictures from the crash visit our sister station, KOMO-TV.