The pilot of a Eurocopter AS350 has survived a fatal crash into New York’s East River which claimed the lives of all five passengers on board. The accident happened at around 7 p.m. Sunday, local time. The aircraft was owned by Jersey-based Liberty Helicopters and was one of three that had been hired to take three groups of passengers on photo shoot sightseeing trips of New York.
No immediate information has been released as to what may have caused the crash. One eyewitness told the New York Daily News that: “It was a pretty hard hit and then it flipped over,” adding: “We didn’t see the helicopter anymore and then a yellow raft popped up and again we didn’t see or hear anyone until we saw a person on top of the raft screaming and yelling for help and waving.”
The pilot had managed to free himself and called out for help from a flotation device, after which he was rescued by a fire boat and subsequently taken to hospital. The five passengers were cut free from the crashed helicopter by emergency fire and police responders. Two are believed to have died at the scene, while it was announced the following morning that the other three passengers had not survived the crash either.
It is understood that the nature of the flight was such that it was flown with no side doors, and passengers were very securely harnessed, so they could lean far out of the helicopter without fear of falling. However, these harnesses go over the passengers’ backs and between their legs, They are subsequently attached to a carabiner by a metal ring and tethered to the floor.
One of the passengers in one of the two other helicopters said: “There’s no way those people could’ve gotten out of the helicopter. Not with the training they had. Not even me, and this is my third time … When you’re anchored at your shoulder blade, you can’t reach that.”