Friend remembers pilot killed in crash: ‘Did he hug his boys the last chance?’

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A friend of the pilot who died in the helicopter crash in Seattle spoke with KXAN News about their time working together and the challenges ahead.

Eric Kirchner worked as a traffic reporter in Seattle. He says he worked regularly with Gary Pfitzner, the pilot who died in Tuesday’s crash.

Kirchner moved to the Austin area within just the past few days.

Eric Kirchner started getting text messages about the crash while working in his yard. Those messages were coming from friends and family on the west coast.

“It makes you realize, don’t take for granted today,” said Kirchner. “Don’t take for granted your family, your loved ones, because you don’t know. You’re not assured of tomorrow.”

Kirchner called Gary “lucky” because of how often they found news from the air when “lucky” was flying.

“Gary was a wonderful human being,” said Kirchner. “He was a great man, a great husband and I had the privilege to be his friend and to say that he was mine.”

Eric is also thinking about Gary’s family.

“It’s one thing to hear that somebody passed away, but to visualize the crash,  knowing that he saw the ground coming right at him and then the fire that ensued afterwards — that’s got to be the hardest part, I think for his kids and his wife right now,” said Kirchner. “Did he kiss his wife when he left this morning? Did he hug his boys the last chance, and he loved his boys.”

Eric had planned a trip to Seattle. Now, that trip may include a funeral for a friend. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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