Pilot in deadly East River helicopter crash frantic ‘mayday’ call



NTSB to investigate Manhattan helicopter crash

Helicopter crash in Manhattan’s East River kills all 5 passengers. Pilot is the only survivor.

The helicopter pilot was the only survivor of Sunday’s crash in New York’s East River was a chilling and frantic distress call moments before the aircraft plunged into the icy water, quickly repeat “mayday” into his radio.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” Richard Vance, the 33-year-old pilot, called over his radio seconds before you go down in a crash that all five of his passengers dead. “East River engine failure!”

Vance managed to survive by climbing on a raft, but the passengers, who were part of a tour operated by New Jersey-based Liberty Helicopters, all died. It reportedly is the third crash in the past 11 years with the company.

“It took a while for the divers to these people. They worked very quickly, as fast as they could,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “It was a great tragedy that we had here.”

The pilot of the helicopter, Richard Vance, after the emergence of the cold waters of New York’s East River on Sunday night.

(Courtesy Of New York Post)

The passengers were restored shortly after the 7:06 pm crash by the police and fire department divers, who had to remove them from the tight harness while upside down, he added.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but investigators are looking into the question of whether a passenger in the bag had interfered with the helicopter.

Three of the passengers listed in critical condition after he was rushed to the nearby hospitals, where they later died. Two were pronounced dead at the scene and police said the pilot himself liberated and was saved by a passing tugboat.

Officials said that the water Sunday night, it was cold, with temperatures around 40 degrees.

@cnn @FoxNews just witnessed a helicopter crash in the East River .. hope everyone is ok. Caught on tape!

— JJ Magers (@JJmagers) March 11, 2018

Video posted on Twitter of the crash turned out to be a red helicopter land hard in the river and then flip on its side as the rotors hit the water.

Police sources told the New York Post, the helicopter was flown by Vance, a native of Danbury, Connecticut.

“He is a very good pilot,” his father, Anthony Vance, told the newspaper, adding he has flown “for many years” with a commercial pilot’s license.

A LinkedIn page apparently belonging to Vance said that he has been employed by Liberty Helicopters since April 2016.

Video footage shows the survivor from the helicopter crash in New York’s East River, officials tell CBS New York.

— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 12, 2018

The group of five passengers, who officials said were flying as part of one of the tours were private Eurocopter AS350 for a photo shoot when it crashed.

“We are focused on the support of the families affected by this tragic accident and to cooperate fully with the FAA and the NTSB investigations,” Freedom Helicopters told Fox News in a statement.

The company says on its website it has been in business since 1990 and offers unparalleled safety records and a commitment to customer service.”

But Sunday’s crash is the third involving Liberty Helicopters in the past 11 years, according to reports.

In 2009, a sightseeing helicopter of the same model, and operated by Liberty Helicopters, collided with a small private plane over the Hudson River, killing nine people, including a group of Italian tourists, the Associated Press reported.

Two years earlier, one of the company helicopters, carrying eight people fell into the Hudson River, but everyone was able to escape, according to WABC.

March 11, 2018: Yellow buoys that a New York police officer, said his suspension from a helicopter that crashed in the East River float next to a NYPD police boat on a pier in New York.


A witness told the New York Post they looked Sunday crash unfold from her apartment window, and “I immediately thought someone was not going to live.”

“By the time we are here, we could not see [the helicopter],” Mary Lee said. “It was under water.”

Another witness, Arineh Nazarian, described the helicopter crash while she and others were eating dinner.

“We have noticed that a red helicopter at full speed in the direction of the water,” Nazarian told WABC. “It almost looked very surreal and next thing we know that it is approaching the water slowly and then it just completely crashed and sank.”

The sky above New York city constantly a buzz with helicopters transporting tourists, business people, traffic, reporters, medical teams, and others. Crashes are not unheard of.

A crash in October 2011 in the East River killed a British woman visiting the city for her 40th birthday. Three other occupants were injured.

In June 2005, two helicopters crashed into the East River in the same week. An incident injured eight people, including some bank officers. The other crash hit the water shortly after take-off on a sightseeing flight, injuring six tourists and the pilot.

Fox News’ Edmund Initiative, Nicole, Darrah, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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