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Helicopter that crashed in NYC had no engine problems, NTSB says

A crane prepares to lift a helicopter from

A crane prepares to lift a helicopter from the East River in New York, March 12, 2018. Credit: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutters / JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

The tourist helicopter that plunged into the East River on Sunday, killing five passengers, suffered no engine problems or flight control malfunctions in the moments before the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

In a short statement, the NTSB also said it interviewed the pilot of the downed aircraft, Richard Vance, as well as other personnel of Liberty Helicopters, the firm that was operating the helicopter on a sunset tour of Manhattan at the time. The agency did not disclose what was said in any of those interviews.

After experts tore apart the helicopter’s engine, “no evidence of abnormalities was found” and the helicopter itself had no evidence of pre-impact breakup, the NTSB said. It noted, however, that it suffered substantial damage when it hit the water around 90th Street and the East River.

Vance was the only survivor of the accident. He told police on Sunday that he believed a strap of some sort got entangled with a fuel shut-off lever, severing the fuel supply to the engine.

On Wednesday, the NTSB said its examination so far of engine flight controls found “no pre-impact failure of malfunctions.” An NTSB spokesman said that the fuel control levers were still undergoing examination.

The NTSB said it was also continuing to examine the float system on the helicopter. The floats on the aircraft deployed when it hit the water, but didn’t prevent the helicopter from turning upside down.

The NTSB didn’t disclose if its review had discovered anything about the passenger harnesses, items which have come under some criticism for their difficulty in being disengaged and possibly trapping the passengers after the helicopter crashed. FDNY personnel said they had to cut the restraints to free the passengers.

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