News chopper crash victims remembered as professional team

News chopper crash victims remembered as professional team
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 Eric Johnson remembered Strothman as someone who liked to talk about his craft, to get into the guts of a story. He said Bill loved the give and take of the photographer-reporter relationship.

"If Bill told you it was good, that it touched a part of him, then you could believe it was good," Johnson said.

Strothman was heavily involved in his church and community.

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.

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."

Fellow pilots throughout the country said Pfitzner was exceptionally skilled, dedicated to safety, and passionate about his craft. His entire family said they were extremely proud of him.

"To me, he was a very dear brother," said Mark Pfitzner. "And he just always tried to take care of us."

Gary Pfitzner put himself through flight school, and became an instructor pilot.

"He tried to do his best reporting for people, and giving him pictures, and trying to help people that were watching the news every morning," Mark Pfizner said.

And after flying in the morning, Gary Pfizner would go his full time job as a composites expert, building planes for Boeing.

"He was very passionate about it," said colleague Larry Gross.

While the grief is overwhelming, Mark Pfitzner said it is a small consolation to know his brother was able to live his dream of soaring through the sky.

"He really did love to fly, and he did something that, if you're going to go, it's best to do it what you love the most," Mark Pfitzner said.

Gary is survived by his wife and two grown boys.

Funeral arrangements for Gary and Bill

The family of Gary Pfitzner will be holding a memorial for Gary this Saturday at noon at their Issaquah church while Strothman's memorial will be at their family church in Bothell on March 29.

The Pfitzner family asks that in lieu of flowers, they would like contributions made in Gary’s name to the Moyer Foundation for kids who are in need or are suffering from loss.

The Strothman family asks that any donations be made to the Compass Housing Alliance, Kathi Goertzen Foundation, and Bothell First Lutheran Endowment Fund. ---

Watch: Dan and Molly reminisce about Bill and Gary during Tuesday's breaking news coverage: