SEATTLE – The city of Seattle will re-examine its policy on helicopter landing pads in response to Tuesday’s fatal crash at a downtown intersection.
Mayor Ed Murray said at a news conference hours after the wreck that the last major changes to Seattle’s helipad regulations were made more than 20 years ago. They included limitations on who could operate helicopters and where they could take off and land.
“We need to look at it,” Murray said of the regulations. “In consultation with the council, we will decide if we need to adjust our policies.”
Tuesday’s crash happened as a news helicopter took off from a helipad at KOMO-TV after refuelling . The chopper went down on a street near the Space Needle, hitting three vehicles and starting them on fire.
Both people on board the helicopter died, and a man in a car was badly hurt. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
An online list of public and private airports in King County indicates Seattle has a dozen heliports. Two are run by the University of Washington; two are at area hospitals; one is operated by the Boeing Company; three are run by TV stations; and the rest are listed as private corporate sites.
Current rules allow helipads to be used downtown and in some commercial zones and industrial areas. They can be used only for public service, emergency medical care and for news agencies, mayor’s office spokesman Jeff Reading said.
The office doesn’t track helipads, he said. However, City Council approval is required for new locations.
Before 1990, helipads also were allowed for private use.
“Helistops must minimize impacts and meet all federal regulations,” Reading said.
Only minor injuries were reported after the last helicopter crash in Seattle in 1999, when two helicopters collided over Lake Union.