In response to the first headline emergency during his administration, Mayor Ed Murray held a somber press conference this morning, expressing condolences for the victims of today's KOMO helicopter crash— KOMO camera operator Bill Strothman (pictured; photo via @lindsaycohen) and helicopter pilot Gary Pfitzner. He announced what could be a several-days-long closure of the downtown-to-Seattle-Center monorail, the Space Needle, and the Experience Music Project museum.
Murray, looking grim, noted that he had met Strothman and his son, Dan, who is also a photographer for KOMO. "It brought it home in a very personal way that, often rightly so, we can be adversaries, but those of us ... in the media are also public servants," Murray said.
In a grisly detail, Murray revealed that the bodies of the two dead crash victims remained on the scene outside Seattle Center.
Another man, who has not been identified, was transferred to Harborview with life-threatening injuries.
"If it had been a busier day, it could have been a much larger tragedy than it already is," Murray said. Asked whether it could have been worse, Murray said: "It’s hard to say we were fortunate when two people have lost their lives and one is in critical condition. On the other hand, we were fortunate in that we had a Seattle Police Department and a Seattle Fire Department that were able to to respond in minutes" to the accident, he said.
In response to questions about whether the city will reconsider its rules regarding helipads, the director of the city's Department of Planning and Development, Diane Sugimura, noted that helicopter landing sites are only allowed in the downtown commercial core and some neighborhood commercial zones, but only as a conditional use—meaning that they have to be specifically approved by the city council.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and will hold a press conference at the crash site at 1:00 this afternoon, Murray said.
We have a call out to DPD to find out how many active helipads there are in Seattle; Murray said today that he could not recall another helicopter accident in Seattle during the four-plus decades he's lived here.