Authorities are reporting that five people have perished after a tour helicopter plunged into the East River in New York City, on Sunday.
Witnesses claimed the helicopter was emitting a lot of noise before suddenly dropping into the water and submerging. “It’s cold water. It was sinking really fast,” a witness told the New York Post. “By the time we got out here, we couldn’t see it. It was underwater.”
The helicopter, which officials disclosed was hired for a photo shoot, experienced difficulties and slammed into the river then flipped over. A representative of the mayor’s office confirmed the deaths of the passengers.
The pilot was could be heard on the radio issuing a distress message. “Mayday, mayday, mayday.” the pilot had called in. “Engine failure. We’ve got an engine failure over the East River.”
Fire commissioner, Daniel Nigro, explained that the other occupants of the aircraft were tightly harnessed in and required the help of rescue officials to be released.
“There were six people on the helicopter,” Nigro said. “The pilot freed himself. The other five did not. The police, fire divers entered the water and removed the other five.”
“It took a while for the divers to get these people out. They worked very quickly, as fast as they could,” he added. “One of the most difficult parts of the operation, we’re told, is the five people besides the pilot were all tightly harnessed, so these harnesses had to be removed in order to get these folks off of this helicopter, which was upside down at the time.”
According to the authorities, the pilot managed to free himself and was rescued by a tugboat. Divers from fire and police departments pulled the remaining passengers from the aircraft.
The US Coast Guard dispatched three response boats to the area shortly after receiving a 7:00 p.m. report of the crash.
The aircraft was the property of Liberty Helicopters, which offers private charters and sightseeing tours. In 2009, a helicopter operated by the company collided with a small, private plane over the Hudson River. Nine people died in that incident.