NYC Helicopter Crash in East River Kills 1 Tourist, Injures 3

A helicopter carrying tourists crashed in New York’s East River, killing a woman and injuring three other passengers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The crash occurred just after takeoff from the 34th Street heliport at about 3:30 p.m. yesterday, Bloomberg said. At least some of the five people aboard were related to each other, he said. Two were taken to Bellevue Hospital and were in critical condition while the third was in serious condition at New York University Hospital, the mayor said.

The dead woman was trapped in the inverted helicopter as it sank in the river, Bloomberg said. The pilot survived and was treated at the scene, he said.

“The pilot reported having trouble keeping aloft, and he tried to turn back but crashed into the water just north of the landing pad,” Bloomberg told reporters at the scene. “Four out of the five got out on their own, the fifth got trapped.”

Police officers and emergency services personnel nearby rushed to the river and some jumped in and rescued three of the passengers, Bloomberg said. A police scuba team and fire department emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene within minutes of the crash, the mayor said. Divers later recovered the trapped woman’s body.

The passengers may have included two from Britain and two from Australia, the mayor said. The New York Times, citing an unnamed city official, identified three of the passengers as Paul Nicholson, believed to be 71; his wife, Harriett Nicholson, believed to be 60, and her daughter, Sonia Marra, 40. The Nicholson were said to live in Portugal. Marra and a fourth passenger, identified as a friend about 40, were from Australia, the newspaper said. It wasn’t immediately known which passenger died.

International Tourists

The response from police, firefighters and emergency workers “was everything you could ask for,” Bloomberg said.

The helicopter was a Bell 206B, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records. The owner is listed as Paul P. Dudley of Linden, New Jersey, according to the records.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aircraft accidents, has sent a team to the scene, the mayor said.

Crashes involving helicopters killed an average of 53 people a year in the U.S. from 2005 through 2010, according to safety board records.

The most recent accident before today in New York involved a police chopper that crashed in Jamaica Bay near Brooklyn on Sept. 22, 2010, after a mechanical failure, according to federal records. None of the six occupants suffered serious injuries.

A helicopter carrying five Italian tourists crashed into the Hudson River on Aug. 8, 2009, after it collided with a small plane. That incident left nine people dead.

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