Helicopter crashes into New York City's East River killing all on board apart from pilot


Five people have died after a helicopter crashed into New York’s East River on Sunday evening.

Of the six people on board, only the pilot escaped alive, according to New York City Police. He freed himself and was rescued by a passing tugboat, police said.

After being treated in hospital, he has since been released in good condition. 

Two of the five passengers died at the scene, while the other three died later in hospital.


Paramedics and members of the NYFD perform CPR on a victim of the helicopter crash in New York. (REUTERS/Darren Ornitz)

“It’s a great tragedy,” said New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “It took a while for the divers to get these people out.”

According to Mr Nigro, the helicopter was inverted in 50 feet of water when the divers reached it.

The conditions were challenging, he said, with river currents of four miles an hour and freezing cold water – less than 5C.

The passengers were in tight harnesses, which had to be cut before they could be freed, explained Mr Nigro.

No details of the passengers’ or pilot’s identities have yet been released.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the aircraft was registered to Liberty Helicopters, a sightseeing and charter service in New York, and was on a private charter “photo shoot”.

On its website, Liberty describes itself as “the largest and most experienced helicopter sightseeing and charter service in the Northeast”. The company claims to deliver “unparalleled safety records”.


Yellow buoys that a New York police officer said are suspending the helicopter that crashed on the East River float next to a NYPD police boat. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

The Eurocopter AS350 went down near the northern end of Roosevelt Island at about 7pm local time, according to the  Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the crash.

Video posted to Twitter shows the helicopter landing on the surface of the river before tipping over as the rotor blades slice through the water.

Witnesses of the crash reported seeing the boat quickly sink beneath the surface.

“It’s cold water. It was sinking really fast,” Mary Lee, 66, told The New York Post. “By the time we got out here, we couldn’t see it. It was under water.”

The helicopter has since been recovered and towed to a pier. The cause of the crash is currently unknown.

The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigative team would arrive at the scene on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this report

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