A team of National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived in the city this morning to look into a Sunday night helicopter crash near Halletts Point in the East River, which claimed five lives.
The pilot— reportedly Richard Vance, 33 of Danbury, Conn.— was the sole survivor after the helicopter plunged into the river north of Roosevelt Island around 7 p.m.
Three passengers were rushed to an area hospital in critical condition, and were later pronounced dead. Two other passengers were pronounced dead at the scene. The identity of the victims has not yet been released.
Vance made a “mayday” call to the air traffic controller at LaGuardia Airport shortly before the crash. He told the controller that he believed the chopper was experiencing engine failure.
The red helicopter was taped by a bystander flying low over the river before crashing into the water.
Vance managed to free himself from his harness and escape the helicopter, but the passengers needed to be cut loose by Fire Department divers, said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill.
“It took a while for the divers to get these people out. They worked very quickly, as fast as they could,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
The water in the area was about 50 feet deep, with a temperature of under 40 degrees, said Nigro.
The helicopter was operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours, and had been privately chartered for a photo shoot.
Vance has been a pilot at Liberty Helicopters for two years, and worked as an assistant flight instructor at Northeast Helicopters for 3 years and 9 months, according to his Linkedin profile.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.
The incident was the company’s third helicopter crash in 11 years, according to ABC7NY.
An Aug. 2009 crash over the Hudson River killed nine passengers. Investigators later determined that the helicopter had been flying too high.
A Liberty helicopter also crashed into the Hudson in July 2007. All passengers survived that crash.