US Doors-Off Helicopter Flights Under Scrutiny After Five Passengers in East River Crash Are Trapped Underwater
Newlywed's parents sue over Grand Canyon helicopter crash that killed 5
A lawsuit has been filed by the parents of one of the victims in last month's tragic crash of a Grand Canyon sightseeing helicopter. The lawsuit, the first filed since the Feb. 10 crash, accuses the helicopter’s operator and manufacturer of negligence in the death of Jonathan Utall, 31, of England. It was filed Friday in Las Vegas.The crash also killed Udall’s wife Ellie Milward and three British friends. Udall and Milward were on their honeymoon. The pilot and a sixth passenger, another British friend, were critically injured.
Video by Reuters
Helicopter crashes into East River, trapping passengers
A helicopter crashed into the East River Sunday night, sending emergency personnel scrambling to rescue the people inside.A helicopter crashed into the East River Sunday night, sending emergency personnel scrambling to rescue the people trapped inside, officials said.
The five passengers who were killed when a helicopter without doors splashed into the East River on Sunday night were cinched into heavy-duty harnesses and tied to the helicopter floor with only a knife to free themselves from frigid waters. Given nothing more than a brief safety video beforehand, they were left at the mercy of stiff southbound currents as the helicopter dragged them 50 blocks, upside down and underwater, before rescue divers could cut them free.
The crash — the deadliest involving a helicopter in New York City since 2009 — exposed what aviation experts called startling safety gaps in the fast-growing industry of doors-off photo flights, once reserved for professional photographers but increasingly marketed to tourists looking to dangle their feet outside and share stomach-churning pictures of the skyline on Instagram. In major cities, including Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, sightseers who are untrained, unaware of proper escape maneuvers and underdressed for wind-whipped conditions routinely climb into the doors-off helicopters, with regulatory agencies providing scant oversight.
Passenger bag may have caused deadly East River helicopter crash
A passenger’s bag might have inadvertently hit an emergency fuel shut-off button and caused the helicopter crash Sunday night.Pilot Richard Vance, 33, told investigators that the mishap led to the crash into the East River about 7 p.m. Sunday, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Monday.
Before circling the Statue of Liberty and heading toward Manhattan on Sunday night, passengers watched a roughly 10-minute video that showed them a knife in their harnesses they could use to free themselves if they got trapped. But that was all. It was unclear if the flight staff pointed out the knives once they were strapped in, leaving at least one passenger on another flight oblivious about where it was. The pre-flight briefing also did not include any discussion about how to saw through the nylon ties should the helicopter need to ditch in the water surrounding Manhattan.
The harnesses, tangles of thick straps and metal clasps that let tourists lean out over the skyline without worry, quickly became underwater death traps.
“It’s not regulated and it should not be allowed,” said Gary Robb, an aviation lawyer who represented a cameraman who was killed when a doors-off helicopter hit a power line in Iowa in 2006. “It’s like allowing someone to walk on the wing of an airplane, and in my judgment poses too much of a risk.”
These are the victims of the New York City helicopter crash
A young news reporter, a firefighter and a tourist from Argentina were among the five passengers who died in a helicopter crash in New York's East River on Sunday night.The victims were on board a Liberty Helicopters aircraft that had been chartered for a private photo shoot, authorities said. The helicopter crash landed in the East River, flipped upside down and then submerged into the cold water, authorities said.
Investigators were wrestling with a thicket of questions after the crash. Among them were what caused it, why the helicopter’s yellow inflatable pontoons did not keep it from flipping over and sinking and what more, if anything, the pilot could have done afterward to save his passengers.
The pilot, Richard Vance, 33, said on a mayday call that there was “engine failure.” He later told investigators that the fuel shut-off switch may have inadvertently been hit by passengers or somehow became wrapped up in onboard equipment or a strap. Aviation experts said it was not clear how that could have happened, given that the switch was on the floor in the front area of the cabin as well as the safeguards around loose objects on a doors-off flight.
Aviation experts said the helicopter appeared in cellphone video to have made a gradual descent that passengers could have survived, had the helicopter not tipped over and submerged. That raised questions about whether the pontoons — flotation devices activated by the pilot or by contact with water that run along the landing skids to cushion a fall — were properly inflated. Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news conference on Monday that all the pontoons deployed, but they were examining how quickly and in what order and whether they had been properly maintained.
Video shows passengers' final moments before helicopter crash
Trevor Cadigan smiles brightly into the camera, the setting sun casting an orange glow inside the helicopter. He then flips the camera around to show the sun as the helicopter gains altitude. That's the final image from his video of a helicopter ride Sunday. Shortly after that, the aircraft crashed into New York's East River, killing Cadigan, 26, and four others. The other victims were Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29; Daniel Thompson, 34; Tristan Hill, 29; and Brian McDaniel, 26.Cadigan and McDaniel graduated from Bishop Lynch High School in downtown Dallas, according to CNN affiliate KDAF.
Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called on the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an emergency order and temporarily suspend the license of Liberty Helicopters, the large sightseeing and charter company that owns and operates the Eurocopter AS350 that crashed.
The company has a checkered safety record. It was also involved in a collision over the Hudson River in 2009, in which a helicopter ascended to the altitude of a small private plane and hit the aircraft, killing six people on the helicopter and three on the plane.
Two years earlier a Liberty tour helicopter crashed into the Hudson River; all the occupants survived.
Previous crashes have often prompted calls by elected officials to restrict helicopter traffic in the crowded skies over Manhattan. But aviation experts on Monday homed in on the lightly regulated, little-known industry of doors-off photo flights.
The N.T.S.B. investigators said it was legal for the helicopter that crashed to have its doors open, but answered few other questions about whether it had prior mechanical problems or whether it met any regulatory requirements for doors-off flights. Investigators said they would look at whether the harnesses worked properly.
The pilot spoke with local investigators after the crash and the N.T.S.B. said it would also seek an interview.
Feds probe helicopter crash, examine passenger restraints
NEW YORK — Investigators have recovered a flight data recorder and a GoPro camera from a helicopter that crashed into New York City's East River as officials try to piece together why it went down.The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that it also was examining whether the passengers' safety harnesses hindered their escape from the sinking aircraft.New York City's medical examiner says the five passengers drowned when the helicopter capsized after touching down in the river. The pilot escaped.The family of one victim, 26-year-old Trevor Cadigan, has filed a lawsuit against owner Liberty Helicopters and others.
The helicopter, which was booked through FlyNYON, a company that specializes in doors-off helicopter photo tours, had taken off from New Jersey a short while before it encountered trouble.
“He pointed away from the city and toward the river,” a law enforcement official said, referring to the pilot. “He didn’t want to go down in Manhattan, so he went toward the river, because it seemed like the best option for a landing.”
Once it splashed into the East River, the helicopter flipped over and began sinking.
A tugboat, the Foxy 3, was returning to its base on Staten Island when the men aboard apparently heard the mayday call, the official said. They helped rescue the captain and tied off the helicopter to keep it from sinking 50 feet to the bottom of the river.
Law enforcement officials lauded the men aboard the tug for their quick response.
With the current in the East River between Manhattan and Queens running south at about three knots and the downed helicopter lashed to the tug, rescue divers had only one option.
They told the tugboat captain to cut the propellers and resigned themselves to drifting with the current as they tried to cut five passengers out of the doorless helicopter, their bodies underwater.
By the time the divers plucked them out, it was too late. The five passengers — four men and a woman — all died. On Monday, they were identified as Daniel Thompson, 34, and Tristan Hill, 29, both from New York; Trevor Cadigan and Brian McDaniel, both 26 from Dallas; and Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, who was from Argentina.
‘This should never happen again’: Family of New York helicopter crash victim sues tour operator
Trevor Cadigan was one of five passengers who died Sunday after a helicopter crashed in New York City's East River.Twenty-six-year-old Trevor Cadigan, a former video journalist for Business Insider, was among the five people who were killed Sunday evening after a helicopter plunged into the frigid waters of the East River near Roosevelt Island, between Manhattan and Queens. The passengers had boarded the open-door helicopter for a half-hour ride above New York City, but the aircraft crashed just 11 minutes into the trip.
New York City police and firefighter divers appeared to free the female passenger soon after submerging, but it may have taken until the helicopter drifted from 86th Street to a pier at 34th Street for the divers to free the rest of the passengers, the law enforcement official said.
Eric Adams,who was aboard another FlyNYON helicopter tour taking place at the same time as the crash, said that he had been with the victims during a safety briefing and as they boarded.
Mr. Adams said riders were strapped in from the rear, with a carabiner on their back attaching the harness to a nylon tether that connected to the helicopter floor. That made it extremely difficult to wriggle out of the harnesses, he said.
After a short safety video, Mr. Adams said the flight staff never pointed out where the knives on their harnesses were.
“The training that we had before takeoff wasn’t good enough to prepare anybody for what could happen,” he said in an interview. “They just need a better harness system. They’re not adequate.”
FlyNYON Air and Liberty Helicopters said in separate statements that they were cooperating with the federal investigations.
The first 911 call came in at 7:07 p.m., as startled onlookers along the East River promenade and in their apartments watched the helicopter descend.
Within a minute the call was routed to an ambulance, the law enforcement official said, and soon Fire Department and Police Department sea rescue experts were working to respond.
By 7:11 p.m., a 911 caller reported seeing the Police Department’s harbor unit on the scene, and five minutes later the harbor unit came on the police radio and said it had arrived.
A helicopter with divers and a second harbor unit boat were also at the scene by 7:16 p.m., the official said.
They could not dive in with the tugboat’s propellers still whirring, so the tugboat shut down its motor and, with the helicopter attached and the divers going under, began floating south.
Pilot’s safety equipment in NY helicopter crash was easier to escape than passengers’ .
The pilot, Richard Vance, wasn’t wearing a harness and easily escaped from the doomed open-door flight, investigators found.NEW YORK — The pilot of the helicopter on a deadly sightseeing flight that crashed into the East River was wearing less-restrictive safety gear than his passengers, federal investigators found.
Five passengers killed after tourist helicopter crashes in New York river - Breaking News
FIVE passengers have died after a helicopter crashed into New York City's East River and flipped upside down in the water.Dramatic footage showed the moment the chopper plunged into the water...
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