The helicopter that crashed into the East River Tuesday was missing part of the main rotor when it was hoisted out of the water, a federal investigator said Wednesday.
Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said pilot Paul Dudley reported problems shortly after taking off from the East 34th Street heliport Tuesday afternoon before it crashed minutes later, killing a passenger who was celebrating her 40th birthday and wounding her partner, parents and the pilot.
"He reported a problem, but the specifics are still being explored," Rosekind said at a news conference at the heliport.
The federal agency said it is still unclear what caused the crash and could take months to reach a conclusion, but did say that it didn't appear there was a "catastrophic mechanical failure."
Rosekind added that the experience and actions of the pilot, mechanics of the helicopter and the weather are all factors looked at in this type of accident, as well as whether the chopper was carrying more weight than it could handle when it crashed.
The crash was the fifth tourist chopper to go down since 2005, and some local politicians say it's time to end the flights.
"Yet another terrible tragedy involving a helicopter should send us a clear message in flashing neon lights," said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who along with State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Steve Levin and Gale Brewer, is calling for the ban.
Passenger Sonia Marra, 40, of Sydney, Australia, died inside the helicopter after she was unable to escape as it sank, officials said. Pilot Dudley, 56, was able to get out, as was Marra's partner Helen Tamaki, 43, mother, Harriet Nicholson, 60, and stepfather Paul Nicholson, 72.
(amNY/Newsday with Reuters)