Helicopter Crashes in East River, Pilot Only One of Six to Survive

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The pilot flying a helicopter over New York City, who made a frantic distress call just prior to crashing into the East River, was the only survivor as his five passengers died.

The pilot, whose name authorities have not yet released, was able to survive after climbing onto a raft, but the five passengers who were on a tour all died.

All five passengers were recovered Sunday night following the crash by fire and police department divers. The divers had to remove them from their tight harnesses while the helicopter was upside down in the water.

Police said the pilot was able to free himself from his harness and a passing tugboat rescued him.

Three of the five passengers were listed as critical upon arriving at a nearby hospital, while two others were declared dead at the crash scene.

Two of the three victims in critical condition were sent to Bellevue Hospital in New York without heartbeats and were not expected to live, while the third was rushed to Langone Hospital.

The group was flying on a Eurocopter AS350 for a photo shoot.

During 2009, a helicopter on a sightseeing tour that was the same model and operated by the same business as the one in the crash on Sunday collided with a private plane over New York’s Hudson River killing nine including tourists from Italy.

Officials at the scene on Sunday said the water temperature was below 40 degrees.

A video that a Twitter user posted showed the red helicopter landing hard in the river and then flipping on one side as the rotors beat into the water.

One witness said she watched the crash take place from the window of her apartment and thought immediately that someone inside the helicopter would not live.

One rescuer said that by the time they arrived the helicopter could not be seen under the water.

One other eyewitness said that she and others who were eating dinner noticed that there was a red helicopter flying at full speed toward the river and that is appeared surreal and then it slowed down as it neared the water, eventually crashing into the water and sank.

Authorities said they would be interviewing the pilot to find out what he describes about what took place, while also examining the helicopter itself once it is extracted from the water.

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