Five passengers killed after helicopter plunges into New York river
Investigators have started an inquiry with the cause of the incident as yet unknown.
All five passengers aboard a helicopter that crashed into New York City’s East River have been confirmed dead by a NYPD spokesman.
The pilot was able to escape the Sunday night crash after the aircraft flipped upside down in the water, officials said.
He was rescued by a tugboat.
The helicopter, a private charter hired for a photo shoot, went down near Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence.
Video taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter shows the red helicopter land hard in the water and then capsize, its rotors slapping at the water.
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 awhile for the divers 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.
But 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.”
A helicopter earlier this evening descended into the East River near East 90 St. Numerous NYPD & @FDNY personnel still on the scene including Harbor and divers in the water. Expect delays on the FDR due to this. pic.twitter.com/ypqxJIP5ev— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) March 12, 2018
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 bystander, Susan Larkin, said she went down to see rescue boats in the river and a police helicopter circling overhead, hovering low over the water.
“You could clearly see they were searching,” she said.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the Eurocopter AS350 went down just after 7pm.
The aircraft 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.
The pilot freed himself. 3 people were removed in critical condition and transported to a hospital along with the pilot. 2 were pronounced dead at the scene -#FDNY Commissioner Nigro gives update on helicopter down in East River pic.twitter.com/KRlWQavdBH— FDNY (@FDNY) March 12, 2018
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.
Three other passengers were injured.
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 takeoff on a sightseeing flight, injuring six tourists and the pilot.
A Eurocopter AS350 went down in the East River near Roosevelt Island in #NYC at 7pm today. The helicopter reportedly is inverted in the water. Local authorities will confirm the number of people on board, their names and conditions. The #FAA is investigating.— The FAA (@FAANews) March 11, 2018
Mr Nigro and Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the rescue operation took place in a 4mph current in water about 50 feet deep, under challenging conditions.
The cause of the crash is unknown.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
Officials did not immediately release the names of the pilot or passengers.
The helicopter was recovered in the rescue operation and towed to a pier.