The pilot of the doomed chopper that went down in the East River on Sunday night, killing all five passengers, is heard calling “mayday” in a dramatic…
The pilot of the doomed chopper that went down in the East River on Sunday night, killing all five passengers, is heard calling “mayday” in a dramatic exchange with an air-traffic controller.
“Zero Lima Hotel, mayday, mayday!” Richard Vance, 33, radios in, referring to the Eurocopter AS350’s tail number, N350LH.
“Lima Hotel,” you OK?” the controller at LaGuardia Airport replies.
The pilot’s response begins unintelligibly, but is heard saying, “Engine failure.”
“I’m sorry, say again,” the controller says, to which Vance again says, “Engine failure” amid static.
“You’re coming up broken. Say that one more time?” the controller says.
Another pilot then says: “He had an engine failure over the East River, Lima Hotel.”
The controller asks if assistance is required.
“It was a mayday call, LaGuardia,” the unknown pilot says.
“OK, got it,” the controller says and informs the pilot that he had the helicopter’s position and that the NYPD was notified of the accident.
A pilot also is heard informing air traffic control that he was flying above the site.
“It appears the aircraft is inverted in the water,” he says.
Within a few moments, a pilot is heard saying that he saw the pilot atop the bobbing chopper off the north tip of Roosevelt Island.
Video taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter shows the red helicopter plunging into the river before capsizing, as its rotors chop at the water.
The five sightseers remained trapped in the aircraft because they were strapped into their seats and had to be cut out, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
Two of them were pronounced dead at the scene, while three others died at Bellevue Hospital, officials said.
The four men and one woman have not yet been identified.
The cause of the crash is unknown. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the 2013 chopper, which had seven seats, went down just after 7 p.m.
The Eurocopter was operated by New Jersey-based Liberty Helicopters and was owned by Meridian Consulting Corp. of Kearny, NJ, according to records.
It had taken off from the HHI Heliport in Kearny, which is listed as Liberty’s address in FAA records.

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