Survivor in helicopter crash faces long recovery


SEATTLE — Since he was critically injured last month when the KOMO-TV helicopter crashed into his car, Richard Newman has received dozens of messages from well-wishers as well as other burn victims.

He remains in serious but stable condition in Harborview Medical Center’s intensive-care unit, and he’s read “every email, every card, every posting” sent his way, his partner, Daniel Jung, said Tuesday at a hospital medical briefing. The support has helped Newman, 38, as he undergoes treatment.

The crash of the helicopter near the Space Needle on March 18 killed pilot Gary Pfitzner, 59, and passenger Bill Strothman, a 62-year-old photojournalist. The cause is still under investigation.

Newman suffered second- and third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body, rib fractures and other minor fractures. He faces a long recovery, doctors at University of Washington Medicine Burn Center said Tuesday.

Despite the difficulties ahead, Jung said, his partner is keeping a positive attitude and remains focused on improving so he can go home.

Newman has undergone two surgeries, said Dr. Tam Pham, and the extent of his healing will determine whether he needs another. One of his burns is behind his ear, and doctors are waiting to see if it will heal on its own or require a skin graft — something that would give Newman a permanent bald spot. It’s difficult to predict when he will be released from the hospital, the doctors said.

“Richard is a fighter,” Jung said. “He is a person who sees an obstacle and will overcome it. He had incredible odds, and he survived it.”

Newman was on Broad Street driving to work at Genelex, where he is a clinical-trials project manager, when the helicopter crashed onto his car, Jung said. He was able to escape the burning car as Brian Post, a security guard at Fisher Plaza, ran to Newman and helped beat out the flames on his body.

Post’s actions likely saved Newman’s life, said Dr. Nicole Gibran, of the Burn Center. Newman and Jung have since met with Post to extend their gratitude.

On Tuesday, Jung also thanked the first responders, doctors and those who have contributed more than $10,000 to Newman’s Projekt Karma fundraising page, set up to help with expenses related to the crash.

Jung said Newman doesn’t remember the crash or many of the details leading up to it, which they consider a good thing. Instead he’s focused on getting back to his family, including Jung and their young son, his job and his love of gardening and softball.

“This is a life-changing experience,” Jung said. “We saw things we didn’t see before, and we both realized we don’t do enough, and we need to do more to help others. That’s a big thing we are going to do.”

 

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