Helicopter Crashes In NYC East River, Killing One

A piece of a rotor blade was missing from the helicopter that fatally crashed in New York’s East River. “A detailed examination” is underway, said investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Mark Rosekind of the NTSB said in a news conference yesterday that the crash involved a private helicopter on a private flight and was not involved in any of the sight-seeing flight tours popular in Manhattan, noted CBS Local. Because of this, said Rosekind, no air traffic control was involved. An investigation of the wreckage is planned, said Rosekind, to determine the exact cause of the crash. Weather conditions and witness interviews will also be involved as will a review of video, said CBS Local.

“The investigators will be doing a detailed examination of the wreckage,” said Rosekind. “Some of the examination of the records will take place on scene here and other parts of the examination and analysis will take place at other locations,” reported CBS Local.

Rosekind said investigators have talked with pilot Paul Dudley, who told the investigators that he had a great deal of flying experience and reported the helicopter’s problems just after take-off, said CBS Local. Dudley “has 2,200 total hours of flight time, 1,500 of those hours are in helicopters, 500 in the make and model of this particular aircraft, all accumulated over five years,” said Rosekind, reported CBS Local.

In 2006, Dudley landed a Cessna plane in a Brooklyn park when the engine failed. There were no injuries in that emergency landing, said ABC News. Dudley’s attorney maintains that a stalled engine caused the fatal crash.

The helicopter rose about 30 feet from the heliport where it took off at 34th Street before plummeting into the East River, said CBS Local. One witness described the chopper as almost immediately spinning after lift-off. “He took off and spun,” said one official, reported ABC News. Officials also told ABC that, although the pilot attempted to turn the chopper around and land, he missed by about 40 feet; the helicopter landed in about 50 feet of water and sank within a few minutes.

Investigators will focus on the cause and will try to determine if human or mechanical error is to blame in the crash that involved five people and killed one. The wreckage has been moved to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, said CBS. “These accidents will take seconds to happen. It will take months for us to figure out what actually caused it, because we’re not just going to look not just at what happened. What’s critical is to understand why, because with the why, it allows the safety board to make recommendations so this doesn’t happen again,” said Rosekind, according to CBS.

Of the five on board, Sonia Marra, 40, died. Her body was recovered in the wreckage underwater and first responders said she was not strapped in by a seatbelt, noted CBS News. The other passengers, Helen Tamaki, 43, Paul Nicholson, 71, and his wife Harriet Nicholson, 60, were pulled from the water. The group, which came together from Britain, Australia, and Portugal, were celebrating Marra’s and her stepfather, Paul Nicholson’s, birthdays, added CBS Local. Dudley, who owns Linden Airport Services, which manages the Linden Municipal Airport, swam to safety.

“I just hope it is the only fatality and our prayers are with those in the hospital,” New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, wrote ABC News. Tamaski is in critical condition and Harriet and Paul Nicholson are in stable condition at area hospitals, said ABC News.

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