Upper Manhattan- A charter helicopter carrying six people crashed into the East River last night—the entire crash captured by cell phone video—before turning on its side and sinking below the water. After arriving on the scene, divers rushed to help the victims trapped inside the helicopter, but had difficulty freeing them, according to officials.
The crash occurred just after 7 PM, slightly south of East 86 St, according to officials.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro stated the first firefighters to respond to the incident were on scene within five minutes.
NYPD personnel also assisted in the rescue efforts, including officers from the department’s special air-sea rescue and harbor units.
The pilot was able to free himself after the helicopter ditched and was above water calling for help when rescuers arrived on the scene, according to officials.
Two passengers were pronounced dead at the scene and three others were taken to a nearby hospital in traumatic arrest; all three later died at the hospital, according to officials.
Rescue efforts were hindered by the safety belts the occupants had on; some occupants were wearing additional safety harnesses that are designed to fit tightly and were hard to remove, according to officials.
Officials stated the helicopter was fifty-feet underwater, and the current in the below forty-degree water was moving at about four miles per hour.
On a recording of radio communication between the helicopter pilot and air traffic controllers, the pilot can be heard telling controllers “engine failure over the East River, Lima Hotel,” before fading out.
Four men and a woman were killed in the crash, according to a witness who spoke to the NY Daily News and claimed to have met the group on the launch pad before they took off.
The witness stated that the five victims included both professional and amateur photographers, as well as tourists shooting with cellphones; the group may have been going to capture the city skyline as the sun was setting, according to the witness.
Police officials stated that Liberty Helicopters owned the helicopter—the company is based out of lower Manhattan and provides a variety of services for people who want to take tours of the city and charter helicopters for travel, according to their website.
In August 2009, nine people were killed when a Liberty helicopter carrying Italian tourists collided in mid-air with a small plane that had just left Teterboro Airport in New Jersey—then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the accident “not survivable.”
Early this morning, the National Transportation Safety Board stated that fourteen members of their “Go Team” were en route to Manhattan to begin an investigation into the crash.
The Safety Board wrote on Twitter that anyone who witnessed the crash—including those who took photos and/or video—should contact the board by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you witness the helicopter crash in the East River in NYC? Do you have video, photos? Please contact NTSB; email@example.com
— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) March 12, 2018