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Pilot survives as five passengers die in New York helicopter crash

13 March 2018

At least two people died late Sunday when the helicopter they were riding in crashed into Manhattan's East River, officials said.

The dead also included two New York City residents - Tristan Hill, 30, of the sightseeing-tour company Sightsy, and Daniel Thompson, 34, who worked for the helicopter company - as well as 26-year-old firefighter Brian McDaniel of Dallas and Argentinian Carla Vallejos-Blanco, 29, officials said.

It is unclear exactly why the helicopter crashed, but NBC 4 NY reported that the pilot issued a distress call minutes before the crash, saying "Mayday...mayday...mayday..."

Aviation lawyer Gary Robb said the lever Vance referenced, which is is usually on the floor next to the pilot's seat in that type of helicopter, needs to be pulled up and back down to be activated - it's not enough to accidentally pull it.

"The National Transportation Safety Board will be conducting an investigation into the crash", he said.

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Pilot Richard Vance was able to free himself and was rescued by a tugboat. One of those passengers happened to be an off-duty paramedic, who was credited with helping to get everyone off of the helicopter safely. A video (shown below) captured by a bystander and posted to social media shows the helicopter impacting the water hard in a level attitude with floats deployed, before capsizing to the side.

However, the pilot told investigators it may have been caused by a passenger's piece of luggage hitting the emergency fuel shutoff button.

According to New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O'Neill, the Liberty Helicopters aircraft was on a private charter for a photo shoot when it descended into the East River just south of 86th Street around 7 p.m. Vance was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he was treated and released.

New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said: "It's a great tragedy".

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.

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McDaniel and Cadigan were best friends and McDaniel had been visiting Cadigan this weekend in New York, KXAS-TV reported.

REUTERS/Darren Ornitz Paramedics perform CPR on a victim of a helicopter that crashed into the East River in NY, U.S., March 11, 2018.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department confirmed that Fire-Rescue Officer Brian McDaniel also died in the crash.

Cuenca del Plata University in Argentina said she studied art, design and communications.

Yellow buoys mark the location of the helicopter, which crashed and flipped upside down in New York's East River. One injured eight people including some banking executives.

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Cell phone video showing the moment the helicopter, being used for a photo shoot, crashed into the water.

Pilot survives as five passengers die in New York helicopter crash