NEW YORK — Investigators recovered a flight data recorder and a GoPro camera Tuesday as they tried to determine the cause of a deadly helicopter crash in New York City’s East River and figure out whether passengers’ harnesses hindered their escape from the sinking aircraft.
The helicopter’s five passengers drowned when it capsized after touching down in the river, city medical examiners said. The pilot escaped.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators picked over the damaged helicopter at a police hangar in Brooklyn as one victim’s family sued chopper owner Liberty Helicopters and others.
The lawsuit spotlights the harnesses used in the open-door flight, and notes that the aircraft’s inflatable floats didn’t keep it from flipping over and sinking. The way passengers were harnessed, with a release mechanism in the back, there “was just no prospect of safely escaping,” said Gary C. Robb, a lawyer for the parents of 26-year-old Trevor Cadigan.
“Hanging upside-down in frigid water — stunned by the helicopter crash, tightly harnessed, release inaccessible, with no advanced training — is a death trap,” said Robb, based in Kansas City, Missouri.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, but Robb said Cadigan’s parents mainly want to end open-door flights for taking aerial photos.
Liberty Helicopters hasn’t responded to requests for comment and referred all inquiries to federal authorities.
The NTSB said the aircraft had been flying about 2,000 feet (609 metres) over the city on a scheduled 30-minute flight when the pilot sent out a “Mayday” call saying his engine had failed.
After the helicopter made a hard landing in the water, it tipped over and was carried upside-down in the fast river current while police and Fire Department divers tried to free the passengers from their safety harnesses. Two victims died in the water. Three more were pronounced dead after several hours of treatment at a hospital.
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