CLOSINGS: View Closings

Helicopter down in New York's East River

At least two people were killed and one was rescued after a helicopter went down in New York's East River, according to Eric Phillips, the New York mayor's spokesman.

Posted: Mar 13, 2018 12:41 PM
Updated: Mar 13, 2018 12:41 PM

The New York helicopter crash that killed everyone on board except the pilot may have been caused by a passenger's piece of luggage, the pilot told investigators.

The pilot said one of the passenger's bags may have inadvertently hit the emergency fuel shutoff button, leading to the crash that killed five passengers, a senior law enforcement official said.

A police source identified the pilot as 33-year-old Richard Vance.

The passengers were on a Liberty Helicopters chopper that had been chartered for a private photo shoot, authorities said. All the victims were between 26 and 34 years old, according to the New York Police Department.

The helicopter was lifted from the water on Monday afternoon and is being examined by experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

Investigators will inspect the helicopter, its flotation devices, the weather and other factors in their attempt to determine the cause of the crash, she said.

The crash was the third for Liberty Helicopters in the past 11 years. US Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called on the FAA to suspend Liberty Helicopters' FAA operating certificate until the company's safety record and this crash are fully assessed.

"Three (crashes) is too many," Schumer said. "There are too many allegations. No one knows what's happened. I don't think Liberty should be flying until we get to the bottom of this."

Chopper was upside down and submerged

The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, went down in the East River near Roosevelt Island at 7 p.m.

In an audio recording of a mayday call to LaGuardia Airport, the pilot said the helicopter was experiencing engine failure.

When emergency workers responded, the helicopter was upside down and submerged, authorities said. Police called for a barge with a crane to pull the chopper out of the water near 23rd Street.

"One of the most difficult parts of the rescue were that five people were tightly harnessed," Fire Department of New York Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. "People had to be cut out."

The pilot was able to free himself and was rescued, Nigro said.

Passengers are identified

Richard Vance, the pilot in Sunday's crash, is a licensed helicopter pilot from Danbury, Connecticut, FAA records show. His current commercial pilot license was issued in September 2011, according to FAA records.

Anthony Vance, the pilot's brother, told CNN in a phone interview that "he did his job and got out alive."

"He's a true f---ing pilot, so just let him be," he said.

The NYPD identified the victims as Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29; Daniel Thompson, 34; Tristian Hill, 29; Trevor Cadigan, 26; and Brian McDaniel, 26.

Vallejos Blanco, a tourist from Argentina, was on a vacation taking a photographic tour of the city when she was killed, according to deputy consul general Eduardo Almirantearena. The consulate said her family is working with the New York City medical examiner to bring her body back to Argentina.

Cuenca del Plata University in Argentina said she studied art, design and communications.

Cadigan was an intern at media organization Business Insider until a few weeks ago, according to a company spokesman.

"He was a smart, talented, and ambitious young journalist and producer who was well-liked and made a big contribution. Our hearts go out to his family and friends," the company said.

Cadigan was the son of Jerry Cadigan, the production manager for WFAA in Dallas, and had interned at WFAA previously.

"The entire WFAA family is heartbroken by the sudden and tragic loss of Trevor Cadigan," Brad Ramsey, WFAA president and general manager, said in a statement. "We would like to thank the many friends and former employees of WFAA who have reached out to offer your condolences and support. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Trevor's family and friends, and with the families of all of the victims of yesterday's tragic accident."

McDaniel was a fire rescue officer for Dallas Fire-Rescue who had been hired in May 2016, the department said in a statement.

"Despite his short tenure, hearts are heavy with grief as we not only try to come to grips with his loss departmentally; but to also be there in every way that we can for his family."

Company had 3 crashes in 11 years

Liberty Helicopters describes itself as "the largest and most experienced helicopter sightseeing and charter service in New York City."

The company has "a fleet of 10 state-of-the-art Airbus helicopters (formerly American Eurocopter)," according to the website. "We have been in business and flying safely for over 30 years," the website says.

This is the company's third crash since 2007. In August 2009, nine people were killed after a helicopter and a small, private plane crashed into each other over the Hudson River. The FAA said the helicopter and small plane were communicating on different radio frequencies "and were not aware of each other's positions."

Two years before that, in July 2007, a Liberty sightseeing chopper carrying eight people suffered a rotor blade separation midflight and crashed into the Hudson River.

All passengers were wearing inflatable life vests, and the pilot said she deployed pop-out floats, the National Transportation Safety Board said. Neither the pilot nor the seven passengers were seriously injured.

In all, the FAA has documented 16 accidents or incidents involving Liberty Helicopters since 1995. The 2009 crash was the only previous incident with fatalities.

There are no accident or incident histories or closed enforcement actions for the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter, the N350LH, or for pilot Richard Vance, according to FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

Crash investigation

The NTSB will likely look at three things: the pilot's training, experience and immediate response during the crash; what, if anything, on the helicopter caused the crash; and what environmental factors may have contributed to the crash, said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney based in Missouri.

Robb said the NTSB would then release a preliminary report, and a probable-cause accident report would follow detailing what happened during the crash.

He said that any helicopter operating around water should have floats so it can land on water and stay upright. Based on the video of the crash, Robb speculated that one of the floats on the helicopter did not activate, which may have caused it to turn sideways in the water.

Liberty Helicopters posted a statement on its website, saying it is "focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and NTSB investigations." It said it was referring all press inquiries to federal agencies.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295001

Reported Deaths: 3535
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin624331107
Ramsey26238493
Anoka20851224
Dakota20527189
Stearns13245106
Washington13220111
St. Louis8141108
Scott798154
Wright720338
Olmsted639934
Sherburne552241
Clay473356
Carver443213
Blue Earth395813
Rice393335
Kandiyohi378719
Crow Wing344731
Nobles301429
Chisago29799
Otter Tail288820
Benton285847
Winona266629
Mower248523
Douglas242235
Polk238223
Morrison224027
Lyon206711
Beltrami202517
McLeod198511
Becker194015
Goodhue190628
Steele18336
Itasca179123
Isanti179016
Todd173912
Carlton170414
Nicollet154925
Freeborn14795
Mille Lacs145131
Le Sueur141111
Waseca135911
Cass133310
Brown131215
Pine12788
Meeker11638
Roseau11074
Hubbard107523
Martin105520
Wabasha9941
Redwood87518
Dodge8230
Chippewa8157
Watonwan8104
Cottonwood7942
Renville77322
Sibley7564
Wadena7476
Aitkin71729
Rock7149
Pipestone69618
Houston6534
Fillmore6510
Yellow Medicine61511
Pennington6137
Murray5623
Kanabec55713
Swift5448
Faribault5251
Pope5071
Clearwater4817
Stevens4813
Jackson4581
Marshall4508
Lake3916
Unassigned38659
Koochiching3675
Wilkin3605
Lac qui Parle3513
Lincoln3331
Norman3307
Big Stone2962
Mahnomen2834
Grant2566
Red Lake2033
Kittson2027
Traverse1391
Lake of the Woods941
Cook630

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 223783

Reported Deaths: 2330
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33166333
Linn13991164
Scott1100384
Black Hawk10795134
Woodbury10255124
Johnson940036
Dubuque913491
Story674921
Dallas629057
Pottawattamie617069
Sioux366725
Webster357033
Cerro Gordo349644
Marshall346345
Clinton322840
Buena Vista302214
Muscatine282668
Des Moines282419
Warren276411
Plymouth270641
Wapello251571
Jones228413
Jasper214643
Marion202919
Lee199416
Carroll196422
Bremer192612
Henry18107
Crawford174115
Benton167418
Tama153340
Jackson143013
Delaware141021
Washington138214
Dickinson135810
Boone134811
Mahaska126127
Wright12226
Buchanan115410
Clay11504
Hardin114010
Page11144
Hamilton11009
Clayton10875
Harrison106629
Cedar106213
Calhoun10607
Kossuth10426
Floyd103916
Mills10297
Fayette102210
Lyon10188
Butler9916
Poweshiek98213
Winneshiek95812
Iowa93012
Winnebago91323
Hancock8547
Louisa84916
Grundy84611
Chickasaw8424
Sac8407
Cherokee8214
Cass80222
Allamakee79011
Appanoose77910
Mitchell7794
Humboldt7635
Shelby76111
Union7576
Emmet74924
Guthrie74115
Franklin73421
Jefferson7062
Madison6764
Palo Alto6474
Unassigned6470
Keokuk5777
Pocahontas5572
Howard5489
Greene5170
Osceola5171
Ida48113
Clarke4774
Taylor4603
Davis4548
Montgomery45011
Monroe43912
Adair4298
Monona4272
Fremont3553
Van Buren3545
Worth3540
Lucas3226
Decatur3160
Audubon2952
Wayne2957
Ringgold2082
Adams1652
Rochester
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Mason City
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 35°
Albert Lea
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 36°
Austin
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 34°
Charles City
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 31°
A Sunny and Mild Saturday Expected
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

MC 'grateful' to play, adjusting with schedule changes

Image

Small business Saturday

Image

Sean's Weather 11/28

Image

Sidelined in quarantine: Coach Fennelly talks about his experience away from the game

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Santa Claus Visits Rochester to Lead Drive-Thru Parade

Image

Aaron's Friday Evening Forecast

Image

Increased demand for real Christmas trees

Image

Santa visits Rochester for drive-thru parade

Community Events