As investigators start to look in to the helicopter crash in New York, more details emerge about the deadly accident that killed all of 5 passengers on board. The pilot of the aircraft, who was the sole survivor of the crash, told investigators that the crash may have been caused by one of the passenger’s bags, The Guardian reports. According to the pilot, one of the passenger’s bags may have caught onto and engine-fuel button and turned it off.

Officials are also looking into one of the helicopter’s inflatable pontoons, New York Post reports. According to an anonymous source, close to the investigation the helicopter may have sunk more quickly because one of its inflatable pontoons did not deploy properly. In addition, the faulty pontoon may have caused the helicopter to flip over, making the rescue efforts even more time sensitive.

The accident, killing five, happened on March 11, 2018, when the Liberty Helicopter Tours’ Eurocopter AS350, carrying six people, crashed into the river near Roosevelt Island at 7pm the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) reported on March 11, 2018. It was a private charter hired for a photoshoot.

Two of the three passengers died on the scene while others were taken to the hospital in critical condition, but did not survive, Reuters reports. The pilot of the aircraft was able to free himself from the helicopter and was later picked up by one of the fire department boats responding to the scene. The passengers killed in the accident were identified on March 12, 2018.

Just before crashing into water the helicopter pilot reported engine failure to an air traffic controller calling “mayday, mayday, mayday. East River. Engine failure,” Daily News report.

Numerous people witnessed the accident and immediately contacted the authorities, New York Police Department (NYPD) said in a press conference few hours after the accident. Police and the fire department responded along with the coastguard. Divers had to free the passengers trapped in the helicopter by cutting the harnesses as they were tightly retrained in the inverted helicopter underwater.

According to the rescuers who responded to the scene, the rescue and search conditions were quite difficult as the current of the river was quite strong at 5 miles per hour, and the water was freezing just below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4°C). At the time of the response, the helicopter was already approximately 50 feet (approximately 15 meters) under water.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting an investigation into what happened.

Witnesses reported that the helicopter caught their attention before crashing into water since it was going faster and lower than most of the aircraft usually flying along the East River, New York Times reported.

Sightseers along the river were able to record the crash as it was happening. The red helicopter is seen to crash into the water and capsize while its blades are still rotating.


Helicopter sightseeing is quite a popular tourist attraction in New York, despite several crashes killing or seriously injuring passengers. Back in 2009 another Liberty helicopter crashed when it collided with a private plane over the Hudson River, killing nine people. In 2011 a crash in the East River killed one woman and injured three passengers. In 2007 a sightseeing helicopter carrying eight people onboard crashed into the Hudson, however only one of them was injured.