News chopper crash victims remembered as professional team

News chopper crash victims remembered as professional team »Play Video
Photographer Bill Strothman left, and Gary Pfitzner right, were killed in a helicopter crash in Seattle, Wash. March 18, 2014.
SEATTLE - Former longtime KOMO News photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner were identified Tuesday as the two victims killed in the crash of the station's news helicopter.

They were remembered by co-workers as a professional team who worked under difficult conditions to bring the latest news to residents of the Puget Sound region.

Strothman worked for many years at KOMO News and was well-known to many of the employees, earning 13 Emmy awards during his career.

After retiring from KOMO, he worked as a free-lancer and also as an employee of the helicopter leasing company that operates the KOMO News chopper.

"We all know him as one of the best storytellers to have ever graced the halls of KOMO," said news anchor and reporter Molly Shen. "It felt like a loss for us because he knows his craft so well, and he's such an artist and such a great journalist."

KOMO News anchor Dan Lewis said, "He really knew how his pictures could tell a million words. He put so much into getting just the right shots, the right video, putting it in the right place in the story. ... He was just a gentleman, a true gentleman."

Strothman's family released a statement and asked for privacy in the immediate aftermath of the accident:

"Our family is grief-stricken and in shock in the wake of the horrible tragedy that claimed the lives of Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner this morning. Bill was a great man, a kind soul, a devoted husband, a loving father and brother. He was a friend to everyone who knew him. Bill was a talented photographer who was a beloved part of the KOMO family for more than 30 years," the family wrote.

"We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and condolences from the community. We look forward to honoring his memory by sharing our stories, but for now we ask for and appreciate privacy during this difficult time."

He is survived by his wife Nora, a daughter, and his son Dan Strothman, who also is a KOMO News photojournalist. Dan also worked at KBOI-TV in Boise from July 2002 to December 2003.

The pilot, Gary Pfitzner, was also employed by the helicopter leasing company that operates the news chopper, but was a familiar sight to KOMO News employees.

"He always had a smile on his face," Shen said. "He loved what he did, loved to be able to fly and be up there above the city and see things from a perspective that most of us don't get to see."