***UPDATED at 5:16 P.M. on Tuesday, March 18th***
It was a terrifying scene just steps from the iconic Seattle Space Needle, as fuel from a news helicopter ignited on impact and dark black smoke engulfed the downed cockpit and the car it crushed.
"I heard the boom and I looked up and 2 seconds, the flames started spreading out," said eyewitness Daniel Gonzalez.
Firefighters raced to the scene, but could not pull the chopper's two passengers to safety. The flames had spread to three cars. Only two drivers
"Aafter witnessing a guy burning, I'm not even going to go to work. It's just...yeah...I'm in shock," said eyewitness Carmen Romero.
Firefighters said the injured driver was taken to the hospital with burns over 50 percent of his body.
Killed in the crash were pilot Gary Pfitzner and photographer Bill Strothman. Both men were flying in the aircraft for ABC's Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV.
"It is a difficult loss for us. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that it happened right outside our building," said KOMO-TV anchor Dan Lewis.
Witnesses said the crash happened quickly, just seconds after the chopper's skids lifted off for a morning flight.
There was a loud boom, then a crash into the street. Incredibly, firefighters say, it did not hit any buildings as it went down.
"It could have been worse...it could have been a busier day...and it wasn't a particularly busy day at Seattle Center," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
The Mayor's words are a small consolation after a terrible tragedy.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are on the scene. The weather at the time of the crash was clear skies and calm winds.
***POSTED at 12:20 P.M. on Tuesday, March 18th***
Two people were killed when a news helicopter for KOMO-TV crashed Tuesday morning outside its station near the Seattle Space Needle, sending clouds of black smoke over the city during the morning rush hour.
The Seattle Fire Department said in addition to the fatalities, a 37-year-old man who managed to free himself from a car at the accident scene was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition. Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said the facility had received no other victims from the crash.
The station says the helicopter apparently was lifting off from its rooftop when it possibly hit the side of the building and went down, hitting several vehicles on Broad Street.
The helicopter and cars exploded in flames.
Plumes of black smoke rose from the crash scene as rescue vehicles converged on the area.
Only the tail of the helicopter could be identified among the burned metal on the street next to the Seattle Center. Also among the wreckage were three burned-out cars.
An hour after the crash, firefighters had put out the fire and were cleaning up spilled fuel, which left a strong smell in the area.
In addition to being near the city's iconic Space Needle in Seattle Center, the crash site is by the EMP Museum, the music and culture museum founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Seattle Center is popular with tourists and locals, and is the site of many music and cultural festivals and sporting activities.
Other cities have experienced helicopter crashes as TV stations rush to cover the news from above major cities.
Two news helicopters collided in midair in Phoenix in 2007 as the aircraft covered a police chase, sending fiery wreckage plummeting onto a park. Four people in the helicopters were killed.
The crash prompted changes at the stations in how they operated their helicopter crews.
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