Bag strap may be to blame, says pilot

Marine units are seen on the East River on Sunday night looking east toward Queens

Marine units are seen on the East River on Sunday night looking east toward Queens

One of the passengers who died on that helicopter that crashed into NYC's East River captured the aircraft's takeoff and posted it moments before they went down. He made a mayday call to LaGuardia Airport saying that the aircraft experienced engine failure.

The red helicopter, which had been privately chartered for a photo shoot, hit the water and turned upside down at about 7 p.m. EDT (23 GMT) near the northern end of Roosevelt Island, just east of Manhattan.

The National Transportation Safety Board will determine a probable cause of the incident, the FAA added.

Officials did not immediately release the names of the pilot or passengers or say how the two passengers died.

The pilot freed himself from the chopper, but the others were unable to free themselves, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a news conference Sunday evening.

There are no accident or incident histories or closed enforcement actions for the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter, the N350LH, or for pilot Richard Vance, according to FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

Liberty Helicopters is referring inquiries about the crash Sunday night to investigators.

The NTSB says its new investigation will include an examination of the company's record. Daniel Thompson, a 34-year-old singer and president of the non-profit Young New Yorkers' Chorus, was also among the dead, according to an official with the group, as were two 26-year-old friends from Texas, Trevor Cadigan and Brian McDaniel. Passengers were rescued by nearby boaters and no one was injured.

Witnesses told local media that the helicopter appeared to fill with water quickly. He said the company had "very thorough" safety briefings with passengers before flights and had a reputation for safe travel.

Bystander John Magers told CNN he knew something was going to happen after he saw the aircraft flying so low, so he took out his phone and filmed it. "My thoughts are with those killed".

Eric Adams, an aviation writer who was riding in a different helicopter, told The Washington Post the harnesses strapping passengers in were attached in a way that would not allow them to get free on their own. A federal appeals court said the town didn't have the authority to impose them without FAA approval. Not even me, and this is my third time.... "When you're anchored at your shoulder blade, you can't reach that".

US Sen. Chuck Schumer of NY is expected to call for the FAA to suspend Liberty Helicopters' FAA operating certificate until their safety record and this crash are fully assessed, according to a press release from his office. "Sully" Sullenberger glided his US Airways Charlotte-bound plane to safety in the icy waters of the Hudson River, expertly evacuating passengers and crew members.

Another Liberty helicopter carrying eight people on a sightseeing tour in 2007 had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson after one of its main rotor blades fractured in mid-flight.

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