Chopper crashes into the East River, at least two killed

Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 12th March, 2018

NEW YORK, U.S. - Two people were said to have been killed and three others injured after a helicopter crashed into the East River on Sunday night.

According to officials, the helicopter went down off East End Avenue on the Upper East Side by E. 89th St., not far from Carl Schurz Park and Roosevelt Island.

Social media pages were flooded with photos and videos of people who witnessed the incident, and showed the helicopter crashed into the water.

The chopper’s rotors were still spinning as it crashed but then it overturn.

The NYPD's Aviation and Harbor Unit, along with the FDNY's Harbor Unit rushed to the scene soon after.

Divers were sent in to search for the helicopter's occupants and the condition of those inside was not known for several hours.

One Twitter user, @JJmagers, who posted the video online just after 7:15 p.m, said on Twitter, “Just witnessed a helicopter crash into the East River ... hope everyone's ok. Caught it all on tape!" 

Soon after, another user, Brianna Jesme said that she had witnessed the crash and wrote on the site, "It sort of landed sideways and then it flipped over. There was a good solid minute that no one came out of the helicopter. We didn't know if it was supposed to be happening. Once it went down we realized that it wasn't supposed to happen."

Another eyewitness Celia Skvaril said, "It was completely submerged. We didn't see the helicopter anymore and then a yellow raft popped up and again we didn't see or hear anyone until we saw a person on top of the raft screaming and yelling for help and waving. It was a pretty hard hit and then it flipped over."

Later, Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the city's mayor, tweeted that there was "at least one survivor, at least two fatalities.”

According to brief statement by the Federal Aviation Authority, a Eurocopter AS350 hit the water near Roosevelt Island at 19:00 local time.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro later told reporters, “There were six people on the helicopter. The pilot freed himself. The other five did not. The police, fire divers entered the water and removed the other five. The pilot is OK. He went to the hospital to be checked out, but he was able to get out.”

Police Commissioner James O’Neill also told reporters that the passengers had chartered the helicopter for a photo shoot and that the helicopter went down in about 50 feet of water in the middle of the East River.

O’Neill added, “It took a while for the divers to get these people out. They worked very quickly, as fast as they could.”

Nigro meanwhile 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.”

The Eurocopter AS350 is a single-engine light craft can carry up to six passengers at a time.

The FAA said that it has launched an investigation into the incident and that the National Transportation Safety Board would determine the cause.