An Airbus Helicopters AS350B2 on a twilight photo charter flight crashed into New York City’s East River last night, killing all five passengers aboard, though the pilot survived. It was being operated by Liberty Helicopters and originated from the HHI Heliport in Kearny, New Jersey. The helicopter was owned by Meridian Consulting I Corp., also of Kearny.
The pilot of the 2013 model, FAA registration N350LH (S/N 7454), identified by media reports as Rick Vance, 33, radioed a mayday to LaGuardia Tower and reported engine failure before deploying pop-out floats and autorotating into 50 feet of water north of Roosevelt Island near 86th Street at approximately 7:06 p.m local time. Amateur video shows the helicopter making a hard impact then rolling right with main blades churning into the water and then rolling inverted.
Vance escaped and was rescued by a passing tug. The passengers were later extricated by rescue crews from the 40-deg F water. Two were pronounced dead at the scene and three died later at area hospitals. New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro described the passengers as “tightly harnessed” and said it took “a while” for rescuers to cut them loose.