Helicopter crash in New York City’s East River kills five, authorities say
A helicopter carrying six people crashed in New York City’s East River, killing all passengers, while the pilot escaped, police said.
Two of the five passengers died at the scene and the other three were taken to two area hospitals where they later died, a spokesman for the New York City Police spokesman confirmed.
The pilot freed himself and was rescued by a passing tugboat before being treated and released in good condition from a hospital, police said.
Moments before the helicopter crashed into the frigid waters, the pilot frantically radioed for help, the New York Daily News and other media reported.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” the pilot said, according to news accounts. “Engine failure. We’ve got an engine failure over the East River.”
The helicopter was being chartered for a photo shoot when it went down near Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence.
A Reuters photographer witnessed three people recovered by fire and police department rescue divers being wheeled on stretchers onto a midtown pier.
Emergency personnel attempted to resuscitate them.
The US Coast Guard said six people were in the helicopter. The Coast Guard launched three boats to aid in the response, joining New York City emergency responders.
Two witnesses described the crash as “a pretty hard hit”.
“Someone climbed out of the helicopter, was on top of the raft, screaming ‘help’ and waving his arms like this, and we were waving back and yelling that help is on the way,” she said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the Eurocopter AS350 went down near the northern end of Roosevelt Island and was reported to be upside-down in the water.
The FAA said it was investigating, and the National Transportation Safety Board would also probe the incident.
Eric Phillips, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the Mayor had been briefed.
“NYPD and FDNY divers already on the scene and in the water,” he tweeted.
The New York City Fire Department tweeted that its members were with police at the location near 91st Street in Manhattan.
Footage posted on Twitter by witnesses appeared to show the helicopter landing in the river, blades still spinning, before sinking beneath the water.
Witness John Magers told the New York Post “it looked like it was completely submerged”.
“It couldn’t have been any longer than five minutes,” he said.
Another witness, Tuan-Lung Wang, posted on Twitter that he saw a “flying object gradually landing on water”.