published Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

NTSB: Helicopter rotated 360 degrees before crash

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Josh Cawthra examines the tail rotor drive shaft of wreckage from the news helicopter that crashed March 18, 2014 in Seattle.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Josh Cawthra examines the tail rotor drive shaft of wreckage from the news helicopter that crashed March 18, 2014 in Seattle.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SEATTLE — Federal investigators say surveillance video shows that a Seattle news helicopter began rotating at takeoff before it pitched forward into a fiery crash that killed both men aboard and burned a third on the ground.

A preliminary report released late Friday night by the National Transportation Safety Board says video shows the aircraft began rotating during takeoff Tuesday morning and rose slightly from a helipad atop a Seattle building. It continued rotating for about 360 degrees before it pitched forward, nose low. The NTSB says it continued the counterclockwise rotation until it disappeared from the camera's field of view.

The KOMO-TV chopper crashed on a street next to the Space Needle and burst into flames, setting three vehicles ablaze. The wreck killed both men on board — pilot Gary Pfitzner and former KOMO photographer Bill Strothman. The two worked for Helicopters Inc., which owned the aircraft.

A Seattle man was seriously burned when the helicopter crashed on his car.

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