A news helicopter has crashed into a street near Seattle's iconic Space Needle, killing two people, critically injuring a person in a car on the ground and sending plumes of black smoke over the city during morning rush hour.
The injured man freed himself from a car at the crash scene and was taken to a hospital with burns on more than 50 per cent of body, the Seattle Fire Department said.
The KOMO-TV helicopter apparently was lifting off from its rooftop when it possibly hit the side of the building and went down, hitting three vehicles on the street, the station said.
The helicopter and vehicles exploded in flames.
Kristopher Reynolds, a contractor working nearby, said the helicopter lifted about 1.5 metres and looked like it was about to clear the building when it tilted. It looked like it was trying to correct itself and then took a dive downward.
"Next thing I know, it went into a ball of flames," he said.
When firefighters arrived, they found the helicopter and the vehicles on fire, fire department spokesman Kyle Moore said.
"Not only were the cars on fire, the fuel running down the street was on fire," he told reporters. Firefighters stopped the burning fuel from entering the sewer.
The two dead at the scene remained in the helicopter wreckage until investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board arrived, Moore said. The helicopter was a Eurocopter AS350, said FAA spokesman Allen Kinetzer.
The victims' names have not yet been released.
"We mourn the loss of a couple of our co-workers today," KOMO-TV anchor Dan Lewis said on the air. "It's so difficult for us to look at this scene, of the wreckage down there."