NEW YORK – Two tourists, a journalist and two New Yorkers died aboard a sightseeing chopper that crashed into the city’s East River, authorities confirmed on Monday. Only the pilot, identified by media outlets as 33-year-old Richard Vance, survived.
All five passengers aboard the Liberty Helicopters chopper were killed in the Sunday’s crash that the pilot said was caused by one of their bags hitting a critical piece of equipment, the Daily News New York reported.
They were identified by police as Brian McDaniel, a firefighter from Dallas; Trevor Cadigan, a video journalist originally from Dallas; Carla Vallejos Blanco, a tourist from Argentina and two high school friends who had moved to the city for work, Tristan Hill and Daniel Thompson.
The Eurocopter AS350 went down in the waters between New York City’s boroughs of Manhattan and Queens just after 7:00 p.m. local time (2300 GMT), according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
A video posted on Twitter shows a red helicopter landing hard in the water and then flipping on its side as its rotors beat the water.
— NYC Scanner (@NYScanner) March 11, 2018
Rescue teams worked in below-40-degree temperatures and 50-foot-deep water with 4-mph currents to remove the passengers from the helicopter.
Eric Adams, from western Pennsylvania, was some of the last people to see the victims of the doomed helicopter flight alive. He also photographed the helicopter as they cruised over the Statue of Liberty at dusk.
I was in the air with @FlyNYON at the same time the #helicopter crashed into #NewYork East River. Not confirmed but I believe this is it a few moments before the incident, and on ground prior to takeoff. Matches make (Eurocopter AS350), timing, and color. pic.twitter.com/kt8wOtyI4u
— Eric Adams (@EricAdams321) March 12, 2018
Two of the passengers were pronounced dead in the initial hours after the crash; three others died later at a hospital.
The cause of the crash is unknown. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.