By Bryan Cohen
(Reuters) - A news helicopter crashed and burst into flames in downtown Seattle near the Space Needle on Tuesday, killing a pilot and a photographer on board and setting three cars on fire in the popular tourist area, officials said.
The chopper appeared to have fallen to the street as it attempted to take off from a helipad at the top of a television news station, Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore told reporters. Witnesses reported an "unusual noise" coming from the helicopter during its departure.
Two people were found dead in the wreckage of the helicopter when emergency responders arrived at the scene, while the occupants of three vehicles that caught fire managed to escape, Moore said. One person was in critical condition.
Television station KOMO, an ABC affiliate, said the aircraft was one of its helicopters. Photos posted online by the station showed flames and smoke rising from cars at the scene after the crash.
"I saw it falling. It was coming down head first," said Carmen Romero, who had been walking to catch a bus when the crash happened. "It hit the car. Then flames went up."
Romero said she saw a man engulfed in flames emerge from one of the three vehicles, waving his arms as he ran.