NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Dallas Fire Rescue has confirmed that one of their firefighters is among those killed in a New York City helicopter crash on Sunday night. Brian McDaniel, with DFR Station 36, and Trevor Cadigan from Dallas were both killed.
The pilot was able to escape the Sunday night crash after the aircraft flipped upside down in the water, officials said. He was rescued by a tugboat.
According to the pilot's statement, he told police he "observed...a tether from a front passenger's harness wrapped around the fuel shut off lever, which had accidentally cut off fuel supply to the engine resulting in engine failure. At that point, the engine could not be restarted and the aircraft descended into the water."
Officer McDaniel, who was in New York City on vacation, had been with DFR for nearly two years.
Dallas Fire Rescue released a statement that said, in part:
"Despite his short tenure, hearts are heavy with grief as we not only try to come to grips with his loss departmentally; but to also be there in every way that we can for his family."
Officer McDaniel was 26-years-old and is survived by his mother and father.
Cadigan, also 26, graduated from Southern Methodist University with a major in journalism and had recently moved to New York.
The helicopter, a private charter hired for a photo shoot, went down near Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence.
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 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 said.
"It took awhile for the divers to get these people out. They worked very quickly as fast as they could," Nigro said. "It was a great tragedy that we had here."
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.
"It's cold water. It was sinking really fast," Mary Lee, 66, told the New York Post. "By the time we got out here, we couldn't see it. It was underwater."
Celia Skyvaril, 23, told the Daily News that she could see a person on what looked like a yellow raft or float screaming and yelling for help.
News footage showed one victim being loaded into an ambulance while emergency workers gave him chest compressions.
A bystander, Susan Larkin, told The Associated Press that she went down to see rescue boats in the river and a police helicopter circling overhead, hovering low over the water.
"You could clearly see they were searching," she said.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the Eurocopter AS350 went down just after 7 p.m. The aircraft was owned by Liberty Helicopters, a company that offers both private charters and sightseeing tours popular with tourists. A phone message left with the company was not immediately returned.
The skies over New York constantly buzz with helicopters carrying tourists, businesspeople, traffic reporters, medical teams and others. Crashes are not unheard of.
In 2009, a sightseeing helicopter of the same model and operated by the same company as the one in Sunday's wreck collided with a small, private plane over the Hudson River, killing nine people, including a group of Italian tourists.
A crash in October 2011 in the East River killed a British woman visiting the city for her 40th birthday. Three other passengers were injured.
A helicopter on a sightseeing tour of Manhattan crashed into the Hudson River in July 2007, shaking up the eight people aboard but injuring no one. In June 2005, two helicopters crashed into the East River in the same week. One injured eight people including some banking executives. The other hit the water shortly after takeoff on a sightseeing flight, injuring six tourists and the pilot.
Nigro and Police Commissioner James O'Neill said the rescue operation Sunday took place in a 4 mph current in water about 50 feet deep, under challenging conditions.
The cause of the crash is unknown. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
The helicopter was recovered in the rescue operation and towed to a pier.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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