A helicopter crash in Manhattan’s East River Sunday night killed all five passengers. The pilot, 33-year-old Richard Vance, escaped the wreckage and was rescued by a passing tugboat.
According to the New York Post, the pilot made a mayday call after he was alerted to an engine failure signal just before the helicopter went down near Manhattan’s Upper East Side. CNN reports that a passenger’s luggage may have accidentally activated the fuel shutoff button.
The deceased victims of the crash have not yet been identified. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters in a news conference that the passengers were restrained in the helicopter, which complicated rescue efforts.
“One of the most difficult parts of the rescue were that five people were tightly harnessed,” Nigro said. “People had to be cut out.”
Two of the passengers reportedly died at the scene, while three were transported to Bellevue Hospital where they were later pronounced dead.
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The helicopter, reportedly owned and operated by Liberty Helicopters, had taken off from Kearny, New Jersey, on Sunday evening and went down in the East River at about 7 p.m. The ride appears to have been chartered for recreational purposes; the doors were removed before the flight so that the passengers could photograph the scenery, according to the New York Post.
Vance’s father told the newspaper that his son was a seasoned pilot with “several years” of experience.
“He’s a very good pilot,” Anthony Vance told the New York Post, explaining that he had not yet discussed the specifics of the crash with his son.
According to WABC-7, this is the third crash of a Liberty Helicopter aircraft in 11 years, and one of the previous two crashes was fatal: In August 2009, nine tourists were killed when a helicopter collided with a private plane over the Hudson River.
[Feature image: Associated Press]