The five victims in the deadly East River crash of a touring helicopter Sunday evening have been named by the New York Daily News. The pilot, Richard ‘Rick’ Vance survived.
Two helicopter employees, two tourists, and a journalist were aboard. The dead are: Carla Vallejos Blanco, a tourist from Argentina; helicopter company employees, Tristan Hill and Daniel Thompson; Brian McDaniel, a Dallas firefighter; and Trevor Cadigan, a journalist originally from Dallas.
There were a total of six people on board NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a news conference. “The pilot freed himself. The other five did not. The police, fire divers entered the water and removed the other five.”
Two were dead at the scene and three were taken to Bellevue Hospital but were reported deceased after 2 a.m. Monday.
JJ Magers captured the crash of the rotary-wing aircraft into the near freezing river on video posted to her Twitter page. The helicopter appeared to lose altitude, made a hard landing in the river as the rotors cut through the icy waters, it caromed, tilted and began to sink.
Helicopters buzz above the New York skyline and the East and Hudson rivers with regularity. The Liberty Helicopter went down after a mayday in the East River between Roosevelt Island and East 88th Street, not far from Gracie Mansion Sunday night shortly after 7 p.m.
A statement on the Liberty Helicopters website says: “We are focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and are fully cooperating with the FAA and NTSB investigations. These agencies have asked us to respect the investigative process by referring all press inquiries to them for an any further comment.”
The New York Times reported Sunday night that rescue divers had to cut tightly-strapped in passengers out of safety harnesses; two died at the scene and three were rushed to hospitals in critical condition.
NY1 reported a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, who identified the helicopter as a Eurocopter AS350, said it crashed just north of Roosevelt Island and was “reportedly inverted in the water.” Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said the chopper was doing a private charter for a photo shoot when it went down and submerged in the 50-foot deep river.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating and an NTSB briefing is set for 4:30 p.m. today.
Eric Adams was in the air at the same time, shot photos and posted a timeline account on Twitter.
“I was in the air with @FlyNYON at the same time the #helicopter crashed into #NewYork East River.”
Adams was on a touring helicopter run by FlyNYON which had posted a stunning aerial image from the air around 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. There was not a cloud in the sky.
Liberty Helicopters describes itself as “the largest and most experienced helicopter sightseeing and charter service in the Northeast.” A chartered private 20-minute flight for up to 5 passengers costs $1700.
Myriad helicopter tour businesses, including Liberty, operate at the 6 East River Piers helipad off South Street (FDR Drive) between Broad Street and Old Slip on the southern tip of Manhattan.