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NYC Helicopter's Harnesses May Have Trapped 5 Passengers Who Drowned

Image: NYC Helicopter's Harnesses May Have Trapped 5 Passengers Who Drowned

A helicopter that crashed in New York's East River killing five passengers is carried on a trailer truck with a police escort. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 06:29 AM

A NYC helicopter's harnesses may have trapped the five passengers who drowned after it ditched into the East River on Sunday.

The harnesses, which are different than traditional aircraft seat belts, are designed to allow people to safely photograph from a helicopter with the doors open. They attach from the rear and would be difficult to remove in an emergency, according to a passenger on another flight who said he photographed the helicopter before the crash.

Divers in fast-moving, frigid waters had to cut the people loose 50 feet below the surface in order to remove them, New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“It took a while for the divers to get these people out,” Nigro said at a briefing.

The Airbus SE AS350 helicopter, owned by Liberty Helicopters, went down shortly after 7 p.m. near East 86th Street as the pilot declared an emergency. The pilot was able to escape as the craft sank and was rescued.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday," the pilot told air traffic controllers as it was going down, according to a recording of the radio call. "East River. Engine Failure."

A video posted online appeared to show the red helicopter descending into the water, its spinning blades chopping the river as it tipped over. Helicopter rotors are designed to continue spinning if the craft loses power to slow its descent for a safe landing.

A man on Twitter who identifies himself as a photographer, Eric Adams, said that he took a helicopter flight at the same time as the one that crashed and posted photos of the ill-fated craft flying over the Statue of Liberty.

“It was a doors-off flight, with harnesses,” Adams said in a post about the flight that crashed. “They would have been difficult to remove in an emergency, since you’re attached from the rear.”

The pilot has told investigators that he suspects a bag owned by one of the passengers may have switched an emergency shutoff valve for fuel to the engines, CNN and ABC News reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which sent a team of 15 to investigate the accident, hasn’t confirmed the report.

The helicopter is being towed to an unspecified secure facility so it can be examined, the NTSB said Monday in a tweet.

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A NYC helicopter's harnesses may have trapped the five passengers who drowned after it ditched into the East River on Sunday.
nyc, helicopter, harness
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2018-29-13
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 06:29 AM
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