Of five, there were no surviving passengers after a chopper from the Liberty Helicopters company crashed into the East River on Sunday (Mar. 7). While two were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, the other three died at hospitals nearby. The sole survivor was the helicopter’s pilot, Richard “Rick” Vance.
The victims included firefighter Brian McDaniel and video journalist Trevor Cadigan both from Dallas; Carla Vallejos Blanco, a tourist from Argentina and two helicopter employees, Tristan Hill and Daniel Thompson. Friends say Cadigan worked for Business Insider and was planning on a photoshoot the day of the crash.
The red Eurocopter AS350 was taking a common tour of the sky, one taken many times before. But the sightseeing sky tour went awry, the helicopter’s rotors whipping the water as it sunk inverted. Witnesses used words like “surreal” to describe the helicopters gradual, then swift descent into the water before crashing. Residents of Roosevelt Island and those dining on the water had front row seats to the incident but were captured by paralysis and an inability to save the aircraft as it landed in the middle of the 50-foot-deep river.
Bystanders took videos and photos of the crash.
— JJ Magers (@JJmagers) March 11, 2018
Currents were at 5 miles per hour and the water temperature was below 40 degrees, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said at a conference. The unfortunate circumstances most likely caused cold shock responses, resulting in possible involuntary inhalation of the water (drowning) or a heart attack, due to vasoconstriction, on impact.
The reason behind the crash appeared the turning of the fuel shutoff button, which might’ve been switched by one of the passenger’s bags.
The only person on the aircraft with access to the safety protocol in a situation like this one was Vance who “freed himself,” according to ABC News. As is normal for trips of this nature, the passengers were all tightly harnessed when the helicopter was submerged.
The helicopter capsized shortly after 7 p.m., the New York Times reports. Emergency responders got to the site as quickly as possible but the first person was not rescued, swathed in a blanket, and placed in the back of an ambulance until 8 p.m. The same was done for three passengers about an hour later.
The company has not yet responded to requests for comment.