The five passengers on board the helicopter that plunged into the East River on Sunday drowned to death after finding themselves trapped upside down by their harnesses.
The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Tuesday ruled that the cause of death for all five victims was accidental drowning.
They were officially identified as Daniel Thompson, 34; Tristan Hill, 29; Trevor Cadigan, 26; Brian McDaniel, 26; and Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29.
Trevor Cadigan, right, recorded this video at the his helicopter tour of New York City on Sunday. Cadigan and his friend, Brian McDaniel, left, would later be found strapped inside their harnesses
Cadigan was a journalist and his friend McDaniel was visiting him from Dallas, where he worked as a firefighter. Blanco was a tourist from Argentina, Hill worked for a sightseeing startup and Thompson was a chorus singer.
Divers searching the crash site found the passengers still strapped into their tight-fitting harnesses.
The harnesses, which had kept them safe while they were in the air, ultimately prevented their escape, the New York City Fire Department revealed yesterday.
Rescue divers found them dozens of feet below below the water inside the capsized chopper, said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
‘It took a while 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.’
A law enforcement source noted how the harnesses did ‘too good a job’.
‘The harness, which was supposed to keep them strapped in while they’re taking pictures, also kept them locked in while they were underwater,’ they told the New York Post.
Footage from the moment of the crash shows the helicopter descending upright onto the water as if to land, then hitting the water and flipping over
‘It did too good a job. They couldn’t free themselves,’ the source said.
The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, crashed into the water around 7.06pm on Sunday near East 90th Street and Roosevelt Island, in the waters just off of Gracie Mansion.
The pilot, Richard Vance (pictured), who is from Danbury, Connecticut, said the aircraft went down because of engine failure.
Pilot Richard Vance, 33, escaped the crash moments after impact, but the five passengers were trapped inside, unable to escape from their safety harnesses as the helicopter flipped and sank, police said. The water temperature was just 39 degrees at the time of the crash.
Two passengers died at the scene and three were transported to hospitals in critical condition, said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. Those three were all pronounced dead in the hospital, fire officials said early Monday.
Hill moved to the city a few months ago to work as the director of operations at sightseeing company SightSy.
He planned to marry his fiance Eda Ozmen, a yoga instructor, back in Reno, Nevada, where the Singapore-born man grew up, on May 26.
Thompson was president of the non-profit organization Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, where he had performed since 2008 as a member of the mixed ensemble.
Cadigan also a recent transplant to the city, moving in October to intern at Business Insider.
His friend McDaniel, also 26, was on a trip to visit his longtime friend.The two both attended Bishop Lynch High School together. Cadigan got a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University while his friend went into firefighting.
Friends Brian McDaniel (left) and Trevor Cadigan (right) were both 26 and hailed from Texas. Cadigan moved to New York in October for an internship at Business Insider
One of the other victims was Argentine tourist Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29 (pictured)
Tristan Hill, 29 (pictured), worked for a sightseeing company and was due to be married at the end of May
Daniel Thompson was president of the non-profit organization Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, where he had performed since 2008 as a member of the mixed ensemble
The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into whether an emergency flotation device on the helicopter deployed properly. The floats are supposed allow a helicopter to stay upright, rather than overturning and submerging.
NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said Monday it will be some time before that finding is made.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend Liberty Helicopters’ operating license until the facts of the crash are known.
Schumer said Monday the tour and charter company shouldn’t fly until officials ‘get to the bottom of this.’
Video shows the dramatic moment the helicopter landed in the water, flipped, and then began to sink into the 39-degree waters.
A few moments later, witnesses saw the pilot surface with a yellow raft. He was rescued by a tug boat.
Part of the reason why it took so long to pull their bodies from the sunken wreckage was because they were strapped in with special harnesses that had allowed them to lean out and take pictures of the city while the doors of the helicopter were open.
‘One of the most difficult parts of the operation, we’re told, was the five people, besides the pilot, were all tightly harnessed,’ said Commissioner Nigro. ‘So these harnesses had to be cut and removed in order to get these folks off of this helicopter.’