NYC Helicopter Crash Takeoff Vid Posted by Passenger Minutes Before Going Down

NYC Helicopter Crash Takeoff Vid Posted by Passenger Minutes Before Going Down

The National Transportation Safety Board said it would look at the switch, the chopper's flotation devices and even the photos on passengers' cameras to figure out what caused the crash Sunday in New York's East River.

It is owned by Liberty Helicopters, a New Jersey-based company that claims to be the "largest and most experienced helicopter sightseeing and charter service in the Northeast", according to its website.

The pilot - who repeatedly radioed "May day!"

@cnn @FoxNews just witnessed a helicopter crash into the East River. hope everyone's ok. The New York Police Department identified the pilot as Richard Vance, 33, but declined to release the victims' identities until their families were notified.

The passengers were recovered by police and fire department divers, who had to remove them from tight harnesses while they were upside down, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Twitter footage captured the moment the helicopter crashed. It went down about 7 the water near New York's mayoral residence. The pilot said he had engine failure. Vance told authorities he believed the engine had failed.

"He was a smart, talented and ambitious young journalist and producer who was well-liked and made a big contribution", the news site said in a statement. "But these poor civilians out for a nice Sunday flight encountered something that was very, very hard to survive".

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"It was a doors-off flight, with harnesses", he wrote on Twitter. The passengers had to be cut out of their harnesses by emergency divers.

"We are focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and NTSB investigations", reads a statement from Liberty Helicopters.

A bystander, Susan Larkin, told The Associated Press that she went down to see rescue boats in the river and a police helicopter circling overhead, hovering low over the water.

Trevor Cadigan, 26, posts story to Instagram before the helicopter crashed in the East River. "It nearly looked very surreal, and next thing we know it's approaching the water slowly and then it just completely crashed". In June 2005, two helicopters crashed into the East River in the same week, injuring a total of 15 people.

"The local helicopter tourist industry has not cleaned up its act", said John Dellaportas, the president of Stop the Chop, a nonprofit that has been sounding the alarm about safety issues and wants the helicopter tour industry shut down.

The official said it was not clear exactly when yellow inflatable pontoons on the helicopter began inflating and why they did not keep the helicopter afloat.

Other questions have been raised about the helicopter itself, which should have been equipped with floats when operating around water.

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