MANHATTAN (CN) — All five passengers onboard a helicopter that had been chartered for a photo shoot were killed Sunday night when the aircraft crashed into New York City’s East River.
Though Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro had reported two fatalities in the initial hours after the 7 p.m. crash, The Associated Press confirmed the five deaths Monday morning with a spokesman for the New York City Police Department.
Only the pilot survived, having freed himself after the crash and awaiting rescue via tugboat.
The National Transportation Safety Board began investigating Sunday night, tweeting out this morning that 14 NTSB personnel are en route to the crash site.
More precisely described as a tidal straight, New York City’s East River runs between the Upper New York Bay and the Long Island Sound, separating Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn, as well as the Bronx and Queens farther north.
The crash occurred just off Manhattan’s Upper East Side, near the mayoral residence known as Gracie Mansion and Roosevelt Island.
The Federal Aviation Administration described the aircraft as a Eurocopter AS350.
Because the aircraft had inverted in the water, Commissioner Nigro explained that it “took a while” for rescue divers to free the five passengers.
Two were pronounced dead at the scene, while the other three were initailly removed in critical condition.
Nigro noted that the crash occurred in 50 feet of water with a 4 mph current, and said the temperature was below 40.
A bystander who posted video of the crash to Twitter captured the red helicopter capsizing, its rotors slapping at the water.
Liberty Helicopters owned the aircraft, chartering it out privately as well as providing sightseeing tours.
The same company had also operated the sightseeing helicopter of the same model which collided in 2009 with a small, private plane over the Hudson River. That crash killed nine, including a group of Italian tourists.
The East River was the site of a fatal crash in 2011, and a nonfatal crash in July 2007. Two other nonfatal crashes occurred within a week of each other in June 2005.