A privately chartered helicopter has crashed into New York City’s East River, killing all five passengers on board.
Video taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter shows the red helicopter land hard in the water before capsizing, with its rotors slapping at the water.
The helicopter, which had been hired for a photo shoot, went down near Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence. One person, the pilot, freed himself and was rescued by a tugboat, officials said.
The bodies of the passengers were recovered by police and fire department divers, who had to remove them from tight harnesses while they were upside down, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
“It took a while for the drivers to get these people out. They worked very quickly as fast as they could,” Mr Nigro said.
“It was a great tragedy that we had here.”
Witnesses on a waterfront esplanade near where the aircraft went down said the helicopter was flying noisily, then suddenly dropped into the water and quickly submerged. The pilot appeared on the surface, holding onto a flotation device as a tugboat and then police boats approached.
“It’s cold water. It was sinking really fast,” Mary Lee, 66, told the New York Post. “By the time we got out here, we couldn’t see it. It was underwater.”
Celia Skyvaril, 23, told the Daily News that she could see a person on what looked like a yellow raft or float screaming and yelling for help.
News footage showed one victim being loaded into an ambulance while emergency workers gave him chest compressions.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the Eurocopter AS350 was owned by Liberty Helicopters, a company that offers both private charters and sightseeing tours popular with tourists.
The skies over New York constantly buzz with helicopters carrying tourists, businesspeople, traffic reporters, medical teams and others. Crashes are not unheard of.
In 2009, a sightseeing helicopter of the same model and operated by the same company as the one in Sunday’s wreck collided with a small, private plane over the Hudson River, killing nine people, including a group of Italian tourists.
A crash in October 2011 in the East River killed a British woman visiting the city for her 40th birthday. Two other passengers died weeks later as a result of their injuries.
A helicopter on a sightseeing tour of Manhattan crashed into the Hudson River in July 2007, shaking up the eight people aboard but injuring no-one. In June 2005, two helicopters crashed into the East River in the same week. One injured eight people including some banking executives. The other hit the water shortly after take-off on a sightseeing flight, injuring six tourists and the pilot.