Five passengers were killed March 11, 2018, when a helicopter carrying six people crashed into the New York’s East river and flipped in water. 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 Liberty Helicopter Tours’ Eurocopter AS350 crashed into the river near Roosevelt Island at 7pm the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) reported on Sunday, March 11, 2018. It was a private charter hired for a photoshoot.

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) will conduct 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 person was injured.