Tributes paid to passengers aboard helicopter which crashed into New York's East River killing all except pilot


Authorities have named the five victims of a fatal helicopter crash in New York which killed everyone on board except the pilot.

Richard Vance, 33, who was flying the helicopter, told authorities he believed a passenger’s bag might have hit an emergency fuel shutoff switch in the moments before the chopper went down. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it would look at the switch, the chopper’s flotation devices and the photos on passengers’ cameras to figure out what caused the crash in the East River.

Police have named the victims of the crash as 26-year-old Brian McDaniel, 34-year-old Daniel Thompson, 29-year-old Tristian Hill, 26-year-old Trevor Cadigan and 29-year-old Carla Vallejos Blanco.

Mr McDaniel had worked for the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department since May 2016.

“He decided he wanted to help people,” Cole Collins, a childhood friend from Dallas, said. “He didn’t care about being a flashy person or making a lot of money. He loved his family and friends and this city.”

Mr McDaniel was visiting Mr Cadigan, who had recently finished an internship at the Business Insider news site.

“He was a smart, talented, and ambitious young journalist and producer who was well-liked and made a big contribution,” Business Insider said in a statement.

Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, was a tourist from Corrientes, Argentina, who had been in New York for a few days.

Tristan Hill, who was engaged to be married, had most recently been working at a sightseeing tour company but had previously been a basketball operations assistant with the Westchester Knicks, a Development League affiliate of the New York Knicks.

He “brightened every room he entered, with a contagious smile and an unparalleled enthusiasm for life”, the team said in a statement.

Daniel Thompson was a member of the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus. Friends said he lit up lives with his chatty and jovial personality.

“He spoke to everybody and was very social and very nice with people. He had an excellent voice,” Adrian Adams, a 60-year-old Upper East Side resident who attends the church, told the New York Post.

The flight, which was chartered to allow those on board to take photos, was over the East River when Mr Vance made a mayday call saying an engine had failed.

The chopper, which was flying with its doors open, flipped over and quickly sank as its six emergency floats inflated. 

Witnesses to Sunday’s crash said the helicopter was flying noisily, then suddenly dropped and quickly submerged.

A bystander’s video showed the helicopter land hard and then capsize in water about 50ft deep.

Emergency rescue divers had to get the passengers out of tight safety harnesses while they were upside down, fire department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. Mr Vance freed himself.

A floating crane subsequently raised the wreckage of the helicopter to the surface before it was towed off to be examined.

Democratic US Senator Chuck Schumer said federal regulators should suspend flights by the helicopter’s owner, Liberty Helicopters, until the facts of the crash are known.

Liberty referred all inquiries to federal authorities, who are investigating whether the flight met regulations.

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