All five passengers were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday night in the East River in which the lone survivor was the pilot, the NYPD said.
The pilot of the Liberty Helicopter tours craft, who freed himself, was hospitalized Monday morning in stable condition, officials said.
The passengers were on board the private charter for a photo shoot, officials said. They were all tightly harnessed into the helicopter as it descended into the water and then inverted, making recovery difficult, officials said. Divers freed the passengers as the current in the frigid waters surged.
Two passengers were declared dead at the scene, three were alive at the time but in critical condition and were taken to area hospitals, officials said.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro called the crash “a great tragedy,” saying “It took a while for the divers to get these people out. They worked very quickly, as fast as they could. That’s 50 feet of water there, it was a 4 mph current, temperature is below 40.”
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the rescue was “a tough operation.”
The helicopter crashed near East 86th Street, north of Roosevelt Island, on Sunday night, the Coast Guard said.
Rescuers, including the NYPD, the FDNY, the Coast Guard, and a private tugboat who transported the pilot, responded to the crash at about 7 p.m., authorities said.
Earlier, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that a Eurocopter AS350 “went down in the East River near the northern end of Roosevelt Island at about 7 pm today.
“The helicopter reportedly is inverted in the water. Local authorities will confirm the number of people on board, their names and conditions. The FAA is investigating. The NTSB will determine probable cause of the accident,” the statement said.
Mark Perrin, an Upper East Side resident, said he saw a man being escorted from the scene in a “big white blanket” and wet hair and “you could see his wet footprints.”
With William Murphy, Anthony M. DeStefano, Colter Hettich and Stefanie Dazio