Investigators: Pilot in fatal NYC chopper crash experienced

The man at the helm of a private New Jersey based-helicopter that crashed into New York City's East River, killing one passenger and injuring three

NEW YORK - The man at the helm of a private New Jersey based-helicopter that crashed into New York City's East River, killing one passenger and injuring three others, was an experienced commercial pilot, according to investigators.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are still trying to determine why the helicopter went down shortly after takeoff yesterday.

New York Police Department divers pulled Sonia Marra from the water about 90 minutes after the Bell 206 Jet Ranger went down. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses say the crash happened quickly, with the chopper sputtering and appearing to be in some type of mechanical distress. Crews pulled the wreckage from the water about four hours after it went down.

Meanwhile, a portrait emerged of pilot Paul Dudley as an expert flier who once landed a plane in a field near Coney Island after its engine failed. Dudley owns Linden Airport Services, the company that manages the Linden municipal airport.

The passengers were friends of Dudley's family and were visiting New York to celebrate the birthdays of Marra and her stepfather Paul Nicholson. He was on the chopper along with his wife Harriet; and a friend of Marra's, Helen Tamaki.

AP wire services contributed to this report.

To watch Chopper 12 footage of the helicopter crash scene, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.VIDEO: Chopper 12 footage of East River helicopter crash scene NJ-based helicopter raised out of NYC river after deadly crash

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