Seattle to re-examine its helipad policy, mayor says

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle will re-examine its policy on helicopter landing pads in response to Tuesday’s fatal crash at a busy downtown intersection.

Mayor Ed Murray said at a news conference hours after the wreck that Seattle’s regulations on helipads changed at least 20 years ago, when the city instituted more rules and limited where helicopters could take off and land.

“We need to look at it,” he said of the regulations. “In consultation with the council, we will decide if we need to adjust our policies.”

The crash Tuesday morning happened as a news helicopter took off from a helipad at the KOMO-TV station. The chopper went down on a street near the Space Needle and exploded into flames, hitting three vehicles and starting them on fire.

Both people aboard the helicopter were killed, and a man in a car was badly hurt. The wreck also sent burning fuel flowing down the street.

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.

The mayor’s office confirmed there are about 12 helipads in Seattle, but spokesman Jeff Reading said the office doesn’t track them.

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, Reading said.

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.

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