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Two People Killed in Seattle TV Helicopter Crash

SEATTLE, WA (CBS 2/FOX 28) --  - Two people were killed and one was critically injured when the KOMO News helicopter crashed and burst into flames Tuesday morning on Broad Street only yards away from the Space Needle.

Emergency personnel immediately rushed to the scene as thick smoke poured over the city at the height of the morning commute.

Two cars and a pickup truck on Broad Street were struck in the crash. Occupants of two vehicles were able to escape without injury, but the driver of a third vehicle was badly burned.

Witnesses said the 38-year-old man could be seen running from from his car with his clothing on fire, and he was extinguished by officers at the scene. He was then rushed to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition with burns over more than 50 percent of his body.

The helicopter exploded into a fireball on impact. Huge flames and thick plumes of black smoke poured from the blazing wreckage, about 50 yards from the base of the Space Needle.

Fuel gushing from the wreckage caught fire and burned for a block from the crash scene. Secondary explosions continued for several minutes afterward.

Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said two people were found dead in the wreckage.

Witnesses said the helicopter crashed as it was taking off from the helipad on the roof of Fisher Plaza, across the street from the Space Needle, at about 7:40 a.m.

"It looked like the helicopter was trying to take off, and it just was trying to stabilize and it looked odd ... and it just took a nose dive right down there on the street," said one eyewitness. "And the scary thing about it was the gas from the helicopter started leaking and it caught a car or two on fire - so it's crazy."

Another eyewitness, Brian Cruz, said he saw the chopper in trouble in the air near the helipad.

"It looked like it got hung up on some cables, and before you know it - boom! - it dropped dropped to the street," he said.

Chris McOlgan was in a car just behind the crash.

"It just blew up instantly," McOlgan said. "Nothing could have been done."

Kristopher Reynolds, a contractor working nearby, saw the crash. He said the helicopter lifted about 5 feet and looked like it was about to clear the building when it tilted. It looked like it was trying to correct itself and then took a dive downward.

"Next thing I know, it went into a ball of flames," he said.

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

An investigation is under way, and Broad Street will be closed overnight between Fourth and Fifth avenues as investigators continue their work.

The two dead at the scene remained in the copter wreckage until investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board arrived, Moore said.

A woman from one of the burned cars went to a police station and talked to officers. The man from the pickup truck walked off. Fire investigators want to talk to him, Moore said.

An hour after the crash, firefighters had put out the fires and were cleaning up the spilled fuel, which left a strong smell in the area.

Only the tail of the helicopter could be identified among the burned metal on the street next to the Seattle Center.
 
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