Dead After Helicopter Crashes Into NYC River While Pilot Escapes

NTSB: Three crashes for Liberty Helicopters in 11 years

At a press conference Monday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board had few details to share about its preliminary investigation into the East River helicopter crash that left five passengers dead and the pilot the sole survivor.

The victims were identified as Daniel Thompson, 34, and Tristian Hill, 29, both of New York, Trevor Cadigan, 26, and Brian McDaniel, 26, both of Dallas and Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, of Argentina.

McDaniel was visiting Trevor Cadigan, a former Bishop Lynch High School classmate, in NY. Officer McDaniel, 26, was an nearly two-year member of the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, and was assigned to Fire Station 36, on the C-shift.

The helicopter was on a private chartered sightseeing photo tour through Liberty Helicopters and was piloted by Richard Vance, 33, of Danbury, Connecticut.

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Sen. Charles Schumer called on the FAA to issue an emergency order to force Liberty to cease until their safety record and the circumstances of the crash are fully investigated. The pilot said he had engine failure.

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Emergency divers had to get the passengers out of tight safety harnesses while they were upside down, fire department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. In 2011, three of the four passengers in a privately owned Bell Helicopter 206B died after the aircraft crashed in the Hudson River; another passenger and the pilot survived. McDaniel flashed a thumbs up. Early Monday, a New York Police spokesman confirmed that all five passengers had died.

Witnesses on a nearby waterfront esplanade said the helicopter was flying noisily, then suddenly dropped and quickly submerged. Previously, a Liberty aircraft collided with another helicopter shortly after takeoff at New York's West 30th Street Heliport on March 22, 2008. Meanwhile in 2007 one of their choppers crashed into the Hudson River.

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Once it splashed into the East River, the helicopter flipped over and began sinking.

Bystander video posted on Twitter shows the helicopter landing level, then capsizing as its rotors slap the water. He said the pilot had initially thought that the passengers survived.

He said that one of the passenger's bags may have inadvertently hit the emergency fuel shutoff button, leading to the crash that killed five passengers.

"It's cold water", witness Mary Lee told the New York Post. In June 2005, two helicopters crashed into the East River in the same week.

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Police and divers braved the 50-foot-deep river, which was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and moving at a speed of 4 miles per hour on Sunday night.

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