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5 Passengers Dead, Pilot Survives In New York City Helicopter Crash

Police and firefighters respond to a helicopter crash into New York City's East River on Sunday evening.
Police and firefighters respond to a helicopter crash into New York City's East River on Sunday evening.

Updated at 1:26 p.m. ET on Monday

A helicopter carrying six people crashed into New York City's East River on Sunday evening, killing all five passengers. The pilot managed to escape.

"The pilot freed himself. The other five did not," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a news conference Sunday night.

All five passengers were recovered from the helicopter by divers deployed by police and firefighters, he said. Initially, two were pronounced dead at the scene and three others were sent to a hospital and listed in critical condition. However, New York City police later confirmed that all five passengers had died.

The city's police department confirmed to NPR that all five victims have been identified. They include Brian McDaniel, a 26-year-old Dallas firefighter, and fellow North Texas native Trevor Cadigan, a 26-year-old journalist. Carla Vallejos Blanco, a 29-year-old in town from Argentina, and Daniel Thompson, 34, and Tristan Hill, 29, were also among the dead.

Richard Vance, 33, has been identified as the helicopter's pilot.

"The pilot is OK; he was taken to the hospital to be checked out," Fire Commissioner Nigro said. He "was taken by one of our fire boats ashore" he added.

While the pilot managed to escape the capsized aircraft in good shape, police said the safety harnesses meant to protect the five passengers prevented them from freeing themselves quickly from the overturned helicopter.

"These harnesses had to be removed in order to get these folks off of this helicopter, which was upside down at the time," Nigro said.

The Eurocopter AS350 went down in the waters between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens just after 7 p.m. ET, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said the helicopter, which had been privately chartered for a photo shoot, is owned by touring company Liberty Helicopters.

Before police confirmed the fatalities, a bystander who caught the crash on video posted a clip to Twitter, showing the helicopter plunging into the river before flipping over with its blades chopping at the water.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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