Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Helicopter crashes in East River, 5 dead

Helicopter crashes in East River, 5 dead

Passengers aboard the ill-fated tourist helicopter that crashed in New York City's East River Sunday may have drowned because they couldn't unfasten their safety harnesses.

In an audio recording of a mayday call to LaGuardia Airport, the pilot said the helicopter was experiencing engine failure.

An investigation is already underway to determine the cause of the crash, though preliminary reports, including a statement provided by the pilot himself, seem to suggest that one of the passengers may have actually caused the crash by accidentally hitting the emergency fuel shut off button with one of their bags.

The Eurocopter AS350 helicopter went down about 7 p.m.in the water near New York's mayoral residence. "All of our aircraft are equipped with flotation devices on the skids for flights over water and you will be issued an FAA-approved safety life vest that you will wear around your waist comfortably during the flight", says Manhattan Helicopters, another operator of tourist flights in the NY area.

Divers from both the NYPD and FDNY then raced into the water, according to the dispatcher.

"Mayday, mayday, mayday", the pilot told air traffic controllers as it was going down, according to a recording of the radio call.

The helicopter was on a private chartered sightseeing photo tour through Liberty Helicopters and was piloted by Richard Vance, 33, of Danbury, Connecticut. "It was a great tragedy that we had here".

Trevor Cadigan was a video journalist who lived in Dallas, Texas.

Video of the Sunday evening crash showed the chopper slowly crashing into the frigid river.

The skies over NY constantly buzz with helicopters carrying tourists, businesspeople, traffic reporters, medical teams and others. Two of the five passengers were pronounced dead at the scene and the other three were hospitalized in critical condition before succumbing to their injuries.

CBS2 asked Liberty Helicopters where the tool was located, but they didn't respond.

Anthony Vance, the pilot's brother, told CNN in a phone interview that "he did his job and got out alive". "The other five did not", said Robert A. Nigro, commissioner of the Fire Department of NY.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

McDaniel, 26, had been with the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department since May 2016.

An Instagram video posted by Cadigan appeared to show him smiling as the helicopter took off from Kearny, New Jersey.

The NYPD on Monday identified the four other people who were killed in the crash as 34-year-old Daniel Thompson of NY, 29-year-old Tristan Hill of NY, 26-year-old Trevor Cadigan of Dallas, and 29-year-old Carla Vallejos Blanco from Argentina.

"We're all still ... like really shaken up", another witness told ABC News. It said it was referring all press inquiries to federal agencies. Meanwhile in 2007 one of their choppers crashed into the Hudson River. He said he thought something was unusual when he saw the helicopter flying low before it crashed into the East River, so he started shooting video.

Fire and police teams worked in below-40-degree temperatures and 50-foot-deep water with 4-mph currents to remove the passengers from the helicopter, said Nigro, the fire commissioner.

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