18 March,

New York helicopter crash: pilot reportedly blames bag after five die


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The pilot of the helicopter that crashed in New York City’s East river, killing five people, reportedly said a passenger’s bag could have caused the accident.
As more details emerged regarding the Sunday incident, Richard Vance told investigators a bag may have struck the emergency fuel shutoff button on the Eurocopter AS350, a law enforcement official told CNN. Separately, a passenger on a similar helicopter flight questioned the rigour of safety procedures under operator Liberty Helicopters.
The aircraft landed in the water at about 7pm. Vance was the sole survivor. In a radio transmission released after the crash, the pilot can be heard saying “Mayday, mayday, mayday” and “East river engine failure”.
Video taken by a bystander showed the red helicopter descending slowly into the water, before listing on to its right-hand side. Vance was able to free himself and was rescued by a tugboat.
The passengers were identified on Monday as Daniel Thompson, 34, and Tristan Hill, 29, from New York; Trevor Cadigan and Brian McDaniel, both 26, from Dallas; and Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, from Argentina. The helicopter had been privately chartered for a photoshoot, officials said.
Eric Adams, a travel journalist based in Pennsylvania, said on Sunday night he had been on a similar flight which took off soon after the helicopter that crashed.
The helicopter was a “doors-off” flight, Adams said, meaning the sides of the craft were open to the elements. Passengers on such flights, able to take pictures in the open air, are strapped into their seats tightly.
Adams said he had the same safety briefing as the passengers on the crashed helicopter. It had lacked fundamental details, he said.
“It was a doors-off flight, with harnesses,” Adams wrote on Twitter. “They would have been difficult to remove in an emergency, since you’re attached from the rear.
“They provide knives to slice harnesses but didn’t physically point out where they were once we had them on. We had floatation [sic] devices too.”
Liberty Helicopters did not respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday night Adams posted photographs to Twitter of what he said was the helicopter minutes before it crashed. Cadigan posted a video to his Instagram story on Sunday which showed him in the helicopter, apparently during take off.
ABC News reported that the helicopter entered the water around East 86th Street, near Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It then floated “a mile or two south”, officials told ABC, before emergency crews could bring it to a halt.
Fire department of New York commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters the helicopter turned upside down in the water, complicating recovery efforts. “One of the most difficult parts of the rescue were that five people were tightly harnessed,” Nigro said. “People had to be cut out.”
The National Transport Safety Board was leading the investigation into the crash. On Monday, the agency said it was sending “14 NTSB personnel” to the site.
The crash drew crowds to the waterfront.
“It’s cold water,” witness Mary Lee told the New York Post. “It was sinking really fast. By the time we got out here, we couldn’t see it. It was underwater.”
Another bystander, Susan Larkin, told the Associated Press she saw rescue boats in the river and a police helicopter hovering low over the water. Others reported seeing someone in the water, clinging to a flotation device.
It is the third crash involving Liberty Helicopters in the past 11 years. In 2009, nine people were killed when a helicopter collided with a plane over the East river. Five Italian tourists and the pilot were onboard the helicopter and three people, one of them a child, were travelling in the plane.
Two years earlier, one of Liberty’s helicopters fell 150m during another sightseeing trip. The pilot was able to land the aircraft safely in the Hudson river and help evacuate the seven passengers.


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