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Helicopter Crashes Into East River; 1 Dead

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A helicopter crashed into the East River off of 34th Street in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, leaving one person dead and sending others to local hospitals.

PHOTO GALLERY: East River Helicopter Crash

The crash happened at around 3:22 p.m., shortly after the chopper took off from the 34th Street helipad.  Crews at the scene lifted the chopper out of the water Tuesday evening and were able to get it onto a recovery boat.

1010 WINS' Al Jones Speaks With People At The Scene


The passengers were family friends of the pilot, Paul Dudley.  Among them were Paul and Harriet Nicholson, a British couple who live in Portugal.  In addition, Harriet Nicholson's daughter, Sonia Marra, and her Australian friend, Helen Tamaki, were also passengers -- both were living in Sydney.

Marra died at the scene. She was apparently trapped inside the helicopter for about an hour and a half before rescue crews were able to get to her.  The two surviving women were rushed to Bellevue Hospital -- one in cardiac arrest and the other in respiratory arrest. Paul Nicholson was taken to NYU Medical Center and released.

1010 WINS' Juliet Papa Reports From Bellevue Hospital


Dudley was able to swim away from the wreckage and was treated at the scene. He has already had a preliminary interview with NTSB investigators.

The NTSB is also planning to take an in-depth look at the helicopter, and do a more thorough interview with the pilot to determine mechanical versus human error.  They said they will be looking at Dudley's training, any previous accidents and other factors as well.

Dudley is a commercial pilot and owns Linden Airport Services. The company manages the Linden Municipal Airport in New Jersey.  In 2006, Dudley landed a Cessna aircraft in a Brooklyn park near Coney Island after the engine failed. No one was hurt in that emergency landing.

"It's a sad day, but I think one of the comforting things was the way the Police Department, Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management came together, worked together and did whatever was humanly possible to reduce the loss of life," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference.

Dozens of emergency responders risked their lives to save others Tuesday and were saddened by the precious life that was lost.  NYPD Emergency Service Units and FDNY rescue crews knew their window to save the remaining survivors was closing fast and some officers even jumped in, in full uniform.

1010 WINS' Eileen Lehpamer Hears From Rescue Workers


Earlier in the evening, CBS 2's Chris Wragge spoke with eyewitness Robert Dress, who said he was in the area with his son to watch helicopters take off.

Dress said the chopper was "swirling around like it was in trouble," adding that "as soon as you realize something's not right, it just went down."

"It went in upside-down," Dress said adding that the helicopter "didn't break apart."  He said that he reacted by running near the scene and calling 911 and added that the response from officials was "very fast."

CBS 2's Derricke Dennis spoke with another witness, who saw the helicopter shortly after it crashed.  That witness said he saw the submerging helicopter begin to drift down the river.

He said that he saw two men holding onto the sinking chopper "screaming for help." He said that by the time authorities arrived at the scene, the helicopter was completely submerged "upside-down."

CBS 2's Lonnie Quinn said that the water temperature in the area was 67.8 degrees Fahrenheit. CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez said hypothermia is "unlikely" at that temperature.  He added that people would be able to survive about two to four hours in that temperature depending on much they exert themselves.

There were apparently no floatation devices on the skids of the private helicopter, believed to be a Bell 206.  The Bell 206 is considered one of the most popular models in the world. A new helicopter costs between $700,000 and $1.2 million.

In August of 2009, a small plane collided with a helicopter over the Hudson River, killing nine people -- including five Italian tourists.

Earlier in 2009, an Airbus 320 landed in the Hudson River after hitting birds and losing both engines shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. The flight, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 -- piloted by Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger -- became known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."

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