Doomed NYC helicopter took off from South Kearny: reports

A helicopter that crashed into New York City’s East River Sunday, March 11, killing all five of its passengers, took off from a helipad in South Kearny, according to numerous published reports.

The chopper went down in the East River at around 7 p.m. that night, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a Tweet, though it was not immediately clear what time the chopper took off from South Kearny.

The helicopter, red in color, was a Eurocopter AS350 with tail ID N350LH, operated by Liberty Helicopters, which lists its address as 165 Western Road, Kearny — just several “blocks” away from the Hudson County Correctional Facility.

In addition to tours of the Manhattan and New Jersey skylines, the company also says it offers charter services, including for photo shoots, which, according to New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill, was the reason why the doomed chopper had gone into the air in the first place.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued two Tweets about the flight.

“A Eurocopter AS350 went down in the East River near Roosevelt Island in #NYC at 7 p.m. today,” the NTSB said. “The helicopter reportedly is inverted in the water. Local authorities will confirm the number of people on board, their names and conditions. The #FAA is investigating.

“The @NTSB will determine probable cause of the accident.”

A video taken by a bystander shows the easily-identifiable red chopper as it slowly sputtered toward the 40-degree waters of the East River. The impact, at regular speed, did not appear to be overly harsh.  However, once it finally did hit the water, it turned upside down, reports said, and was towed for nearly two miles by a 4 MPH current in 50-foot depths, until rescuers could get to those on board.

The five yet-to-be-identified passengers were reportedly harnessed tightly for their safety, and were unable to free themselves — but the pilot was able to do so, New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“They (victims) had to be cut out,” Nigro said.

Two victims were declared dead at the scene and three had initially been removed and brought to area hospitals, Nigro said.

The one survivor of the flight — the pilot — was identified by ABC News as Richard Vance, of Danbury, Conn, who is “OK,” according to Nigro.

O’Neill, meanwhile, said response to the tragedy was quick.

“Harbor units from the NYPD and the fire department immediately responded,” O’Neill said. “Aviation responded, too, and the Coast Guard. A private tugboat also assisted in the response. A search-and-rescue operation immediately began … I’d like thank the crew from the tugboat — they were the first on the scene. Our air-and-sea rescue responded within five minutes, and then, FDNY marine units were there as well as our harbor.”

Because of the southbound 4 MPH current in the East River, O’Neill said: “It was a tough operation.”

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.