A helicopter crashed into New York City's East River on Sunday night and flipped upside down in the water, killing five of the six people aboard, officials say. Video taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter shows the red helicopter land hard in the water and then capsize, its rotors slapping at the water. The helicopter, a private charter hired for a photo shoot, went down near Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence, the AP reports. One person, the pilot, freed himself and was rescued by a tugboat, officials say. The passengers were recovered by police and fire department divers, who had to remove them from tight harnesses while they were upside down, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro says.
"It was a great tragedy that we had here," Nigro says. Witnesses on a waterfront esplanade near where the aircraft went down said the helicopter was flying noisily, then suddenly dropped into the water and quickly submerged. But the pilot appeared on the surface, holding onto a flotation device as a tugboat and then police boats approached. An FAA spokeswoman says the Eurocopter AS350 went down just after 7pm. The aircraft is owned by Liberty Helicopters, a company that offers both private charters and sightseeing tours. In 2009, a sightseeing helicopter of the same model and operated by the same company collided with a small plane over the Hudson River, killing nine people.