David Stone

The scene was surreal as smaller NYPD patrol boats circled rescue craft with divers trying to save passengers strapped into seats on a downed helicopter as the current swiftly carried the coordinated operation down the East River near Hell Gate. In spite of valiant efforts, all five passengers perished.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,”  cried pilot Richard Vance before crashing at around 7:00 p.m.. “East River. Engine failure.”

A video of the crash was posted on Twitter.

 Minutes later, the rescue operation floated past Roosevelt Island.


The helicopter is owned by Liberty Helicopter Tours in Kearny, New Jersey.

The pilot was saved because he was able to release his safety harness and climb atop the helicopter, which was floating upside down, its landing skids visible.

AS 350 similar to the one that crashed in the East River
AS 350 similar to the one that crashed in the East River

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that the passengers being securely strapped in for inflight safety made rescue more difficult.

Two passengers were pronounced dead at the scene and three at local hospitals.

Complete coverage in The New York Daily News.