New York City East River helicopter crash leaves 5 dead

All five passengers were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday night in the East River in which the lone survivor was the pilot, the NYPD said.

The pilot of the Liberty Helicopter tours craft, who freed himself, was hospitalized Monday morning in stable condition, officials said.

The passengers were on board the private charter for a photo shoot when it went down in the river near East 86th Street, north of Roosevelt Island, at about 7 p.m., officials said. The pilot reported an engine failure before the crash, according to a city official who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

The passengers were all tightly harnessed into the helicopter as it descended into the water and then inverted, making recovery difficult, officials said. Divers freed the passengers as the current in the frigid waters surged.

Two passengers were declared dead at the scene. Three were taken to area hospitals in critical condition, but were later pronounced dead, officials said.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro called the crash “a great tragedy,” saying “It took a while for the divers to get these people out. They worked very quickly, as fast as they could. That’s 50 feet of water there, it was a 4 mph current, temperature is below 40.”

The rescue was “a tough operation,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.

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