The Seattle news media lost two talented, well-respected individuals on Tuesday, March 18, when their news helicopter crashed upon takeoff outside their news station. Pilot Gary Pfitzner, 59, and former longtime KOMO News photojournalist Bill Strothman, 62, were aboard KOMO’s helicopter, heading out for a freelance assignment. (A driver, Richard Newman, suffered second- and third-degree burns and multiple cuts and bruises after the falling helicopter struck his vehicle.)
Despite grieving the loss of their colleagues, KOMO News staff continued their daily work, reporting on the tragedy that unfolded above their heads on the helipad and outside their office windows.
The city’s various TV and radio news broadcasters suffered alongside them, dedicating constant news coverage to the crash and its victims. Even though they usually race to get to a story first, that day they mourned as part of an extended family. The competing news stations even held off on naming the victims until KOMO News had.
News gatherers have been called callous at times, especially after such tragedies, because of the need to get the information out quickly. But, as wartime correspondents know well, the news business can be precarious.
To those who knew and worked with the two men, their loss is immeasurable. But, as their surviving family members have noted in their public statements, the two died doing what they truly loved.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and colleagues.