by: Alison Grande Updated:
A 38-year-old Seattle man and part-time King County Public Health employee suffered second- and third-degree burns after a KOMO-TV helicopter crashed down next to his car Tuesday morning.
Harborview Medical Center spokesperson Susan Gregg said the burns, which are to about 20 percent of his body and focused on the upper half, will likely require more than one skin grafting surgery.
Witnesses described the helicopter crashing down onto Broad Street and landing between a red car and the curb, then bursting into flames.
Daniel Alejandro-Gonzalez, who was nearby, described seeing Newman get out of the red car with his clothing on fire.
"His shirt was in flames," Alejandro-Gonzalez said. "His head was bleeding … he walked about 20 feet and he collapsed. He just hit the ground."
Video shows firefighters surrounding Newman, who was lying on the ground. It appeared his burned clothing had been removed from his body as they treated him.
Gregg said he also has head lacerations and possibly a broken rib. She said Newman's partner and family are by his side.
"They're here," she said. "They're obviously shocked, just like everyone else in the community about what happened. I think they're dealing with it as best they can."
King County Public Health staff released a statement saying they were stunned to learn of the injuries Newman sustained
“In his role with Public Health, Richard does exceptional work in helping to reduce the impact of HIV and STDs in our community,” the statement read. “We're very proud to have him on our team. We send our thoughts and heartfelt wishes to Richard, his family and loved ones on his road to recovery, as well as our deepest condolences to the families of the others our community lost today, Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner.”
Newman also works for Genelex, a DNA testing company on Western Avenue. Company officials called the event a "tragedy for the community" and said they have reached out to support Newman's family.
Driver of the cars around Newman were amazed and relieved he survived.
They also realized how easily they could have been hurt. Kallie Meno was in a white Jeep SUV one vehicle length ahead of Newman. She saw the chopper coming down, the ball of fire erupted in her rear view mirror. “If I’d been in the right lane it would have been me. If I hadn’t passed one of those cars it would have been me, “ said Newman Tuesday night.
Her thoughts are with the Newman. “He’s an inspiration to all of us, “ she added.
In a photograph of the aftermath you could see the driver door of Meno’s car was left open. She ran away right after the crash. “I didn’t know if something else would catch on fire or if there’d be another explosion so I left,” said Meno. She called 911 and returned to talk to investigators.