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KOMO helicopter crash similar to 1985 KREM accident

Tuesday morning’s fatal helicopter crash in Seattle bore many similarities to a wreck that killed a TV photographer and contracted pilot during Bloomsday 1985.

Gary Brown, a KREM-TV photographer, and Cliff Richey, a Vietnam veteran and private pilot, died shortly after takeoff from the TV studio’s parking lot May 5, 1985. Their helicopter struck a 3-inch-thick support wire for the station’s TV tower about 60 feet above the ground, Spokane Chronicle reporter Bill Morlin wrote at the time of the crash.

Richey was a last-minute replacement for the station’s regular pilot, who was grounded by doctors because of a medical condition. Richey landed the helicopter in a different part of the parking lot than was normally used, according to the news report.

Firefighters arrived to find debris strewn in a 100-foot radius, reporter Theresa Goffredo wrote for The Spokesman-Review. Witnesses said the entire parking lot was engulfed in flames.

Richey earned a Purple Heart and Flying Cross for his military service. Brown won multiple awards during his time at KREM.

“Gary was doing what he loved to do, and that was covering news,” KREM anchor Dennis May told the Chronicle.

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