Only 'Houdini' Could Get Out of Downed Chopper Alive

Pilot Richard Vance reportedly says the emergency pontoons didn't inflate
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2018 8:27 AM CDT
Only 'Houdini' Could Get Out of Downed Chopper Alive
A helicopter is hoisted by crane from the East River onto a barge, Monday, March 12, 2018, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

There was basically no hope of survival for the five passengers on the helicopter that crashed in New York's East River on Sunday, says a helicopter crash lawyer. Gary C. Robb tells the Daily News, "You'd have to be Houdini to escape. There's no real prospect of safely evacuating an aircraft in that situation." The situation he's referring to is a trio of factors: the open doors of the aircraft (flying that way is legal, and the company apparently advertised allowing passengers the "thrill" of shooting better pictures that way), questions over how adequate the passenger safety training was, and tight harnesses that were difficult to free one's self from. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro indicated the passengers didn't manage to do that, saying "the five people ... were all tightly harnessed, so these harnesses had to be cut." More on the victims:

  • Early reports indicated the 33-year-old pilot, who survived, had suggested that a passenger bag might have been to blame for the crash. ABC News reports a slightly different take, with sources suggesting Richard Vance indicated not a bag but a passenger's harness became entangled with the fuel shut-off switch and accidentally choked the supply, which killed the engine.
  • ABC News reports Vance reportedly told investigators that upon realizing the engine trouble he considered landing in Central Park but decided on the East River instead. Though the helicopter was equipped with emergency pontoons on its skids that should have kept it afloat, Vance reportedly said they did not inflate despite his efforts to have them do so.
  • The New York Times profiles the victims, noting the oldest was only 34. They include: Trevor Cadigan, 26, who had moved to NYC for an internship with Business Insider; his high school friend Brian McDaniel, 26, a Dallas firefighter; Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, of Argentina, a tourist whose friend didn't accompany her on the flight; Tristan Hill, 29, who was less than two months away from his wedding; and Daniel Thompson, 34. The Daily News reports Hill and Thompson were co-workers at sightseeing website SightSy.
  • The Daily News reports on the last image of the passengers: a video Cadigan posted to Instagram as the chopper began to lift off the ground.
(Read more helicopter crash stories.)

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