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Mayor: Seattle to re-examine its helipad policy

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Photo - Burned vehicles are seen adjacent to the wreckage of a news helicopter, which crashed into a city street near the Space Needle, Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Seattle. Two people were killed and another critically injured, according to the Seattle Fire Department. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Burned vehicles are seen adjacent to the wreckage of a news helicopter, which crashed into a city street near the Space Needle, Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Seattle. Two people were killed and another critically injured, according to the Seattle Fire Department. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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SEATTLE (AP) — The city of Seattle will re-examine its policy on helicopter landing pads in response to Tuesday's fatal crash at a downtown intersection.

Mayor Ed Murray said at a news conference hours after the wreck that the last major changes to Seattle's helipad regulations were made more than 20 years ago. They included limitations on who could operate helicopters and where they could take off and land.

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

Tuesday's crash happened as a news helicopter took off from a helipad at KOMO-TV after refueling. The chopper went down on a street near the Space Needle, hitting three vehicles and starting them on fire.

Both people on board the helicopter died, and a man in a car was badly hurt. 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.

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, mayor's office spokesman Jeff Reading said.

City Council approval is required for new locations. The most recent approval was given to Children's Hospital in 2007.

Before 1993, helipads also were allowed for private use. Private helipads in place at that time were allowed to stay in operation when the regulations where changed, according to Seattle's Department of Planning and Development.

"Helistops must minimize impacts and meet all federal regulations," Reading said.

Only minor injuries were reported after the last helicopter crash in Seattle in 1999, when two helicopters collided over Lake Union.

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