NEW YORK (WPIX)—A helicopter and a small plane have collided just before noon on Saturday over the Hudson river.
There were five Italian tourists and a pilot onboard the sightseeing helicopter. It is being reported that three people were on the plane, including a small child. The National Transportation Safety Board says three of nine presumed victims have been recovered from the wreckage thus far, including one which was floating free and one in the wreckage. It is unclear if the bodies were from the chopper or the plane. Other bodies were spotted in the debris.
Witnesses recalled having seen a low-flying plane smashing into the helicopter, and then wreckage scattering. The plane's wing was severed by the impact, then crashed near West 14th Street around noon. The collision sent debris from both aircraft into the water between Manhattan and New Jersey.
Investigators have talked to a pilot who witnessed the crash. The pilot saw a single-engine aircraft approaching the helicopter and attempted to send the helicopter a warning but got no response.
A witness who saw the crash from Hoboken, N.J. observed that the helicopter "dropped like a rock" and that the plane lost its wing.
Deena Glanzberg, who is visiting from Miami and was having lunch with her son had a straight-shot view of the Hudson at the time of the accident: "The helicopter - it just stopped in midair. It was just a drop. It was not a big crash," she recalled. Referring to the chopper, she added: "It was just quiet - it was in the air, and then it went down very quietly."
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane, a Piper PA-32, took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The helicopter, which took off from a heliport on Manhattan's West side, was a Eurocopter AS 350 owned by Liberty Tours, a sightseeing and charter company. The plane was headed to Ocean City, N.J., FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.
Prospects of recovering survivors are grim: "This is not going to have a happy ending," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "This has changed from a rescue to a recovery mission."
NTSB chair Deborah Hersman says diving recovery operations have been called off until Sunday morning.
The cause of the crash isn't immediately clear, but Bloomberg assured us that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.