NJ-based helicopter raised out of NYC river after deadly crash

NEW YORK - (AP) - A helicopter with five people aboard crashedinto the East River on Tuesday afternoon after taking off from alaunch pad on the riverbank, killing one passenger and injuringthree others.

New York Police Department divers pulled the victim, a woman,from about 50 feet of water about an hour after the Bell 206helicopter went down around 3 p.m. She was pronounced dead at thescene.

Emergency crews arrived to find the chopper inverted in themurky water with just its skids showing on the surface. The pilot,Paul Dudley, and three passengers were bobbing in the chilly water,and it looked as though a man was diving down and coming back up,possibly in an attempt to rescue the remaining passenger, witnessessaid.

Officers jumped in and pulled out two women and a man, policespokesman Paul Browne said. The women were in critical condition,and the man was stable. All were hospitalized. The pilot swam tothe riverbank, remained at the scene and was uninjured. Two of the passengers were believed to be British living inPortugal, and the other two lived in Australia, Mayor MichaelBloomberg said.

The private chopper went into the river off 34th Street inmidtown Manhattan, a few blocks south of the United Nationsheadquarters. It's unclear what happened, but witnesses reported itwas sputtering and appeared to be in some type of mechanicaldistress.

A massive rescue effort was under way within minutes of thecrash, with a dozen boats and divers down into the cold, grey watersearching for the fifth passenger. Britain's Foreign Office said it was investigating reports thepassengers were British.

Joy Garnett and her husband were on the dock waiting to take theEast River ferry to Brooklyn when they heard the blades of ahelicopter and saw it start to take off from the nearby helipad.She said she saw it do "a funny curlicue."

She said the chopper had lifted about 25 feet off the groundbefore it dropped into the water without much of a splash. Itflipped over, and the blades were sticking up out of the river. Shesaid people on the dock started throwing in life jackets and buoys.Two people came up out of the waves.

The weather was clear but a little windy Tuesday, with winds of10 mph gusting to 20 mph and visibility of 10 miles, according tothe weather station at LaGuardia Airport, across the river inQueens. There were a few clouds at 3,500 feet above sea level, wellabove the typical flying altitude for helicopters. The watertemperature was about 68 degrees.

The helicopter was from Linden, N.J., near the Statue of Libertyand the Newark, N.J., international airport and a popular base andrefueling stop for helicopters operating in New York. The pilotapparently reported problems in the helicopter and said he wasturning around, Bloomberg said.

Dudley is a commercial pilot and owns Linden Airport Services,the company that manages the Linden municipal airport under a20-year contract with the city, Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounkasaid.

In November 2006, Dudley landed a Cessna 172 light plane in apark near Coney Island in Brooklyn after the engine failed. No onewas hurt during the emergency landing, and the plane was taken backto Linden after mechanics removed the wings.

To watch Chopper 12 footage of the helicopter crash scene, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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