Tour Helicopter Crashes Into East River in New York City

By Maharsh Barot, National News Writer

In a very unfortunate turn of events, tragedy occurred Sunday, March 11 in the nation’s most iconic city. A helicopter crashed on New York’s East River off Manhattan on Sunday night. The five passengers aboard were killed upon impact and declared dead on the scene, according to the New York Times.

Witnesses saw the helicopter traveling along a well-known, popular sightseer route before the incident took place. However, the helicopter seemed to be flying too quickly and descending too fast, causing the chopper to lose control, plunging into the river. According to the New York Times, the pilot was able to escape shortly after the helicopter capsized, looking for help as emergency crafts began to arrive.

Emergency workers arrived and dove into the frigid waters to get the passengers out of the submerged, upside-down vehicle. The passengers were strapped in with harnesses and had to be cut out. However, by the time this was accomplished, it was too late. All five passengers expired after the incident. According to the New York Fire Department, two were determined to be dead at the scene, while the other three passed away at local hospitals.

The helicopter was owned by Liberty Helicopters, a private helicopter chartering company, while the tour itself was run by a tour company called FlyNYON. Both companies have released statements on their respective websites in which they express their condolences, and state that they are cooperating fully with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).

The five passengers were identified as Trevor Cadigan, Brian McDaniel, Tristan Hill, Daniel Thompson, and Carla Vallejos Blanco. The five were taking an aerial tour of New York City in an open door helicopter that evening. The group were just sightseers, and opted for flying in such a chopper in order to take unobstructed photographs from the air. They were tightly strapped into the chopper, with tight harnesses that, according to some, were not equipped for safely getting passengers out in case of emergency.

FlyNYON shows passengers a short safety demonstration video before every flight. Throughput the span of the three-minute video, only 20 seconds are dedicated to explaining how to get out of a harness during emergencies. The video shows a cutter in the harness is used to cut through the strap holding the harness to the helicopter.

Eric Adams was another passenger on an NYON aerial tour who stated he had watched the safety demonstration clip, but admitted that he did not remember the video or anyone telling them where the cutter was located.

Judith Verweijen, a member of the oil and gas industry, also flew on a FlyNYON helicopter that weekend, and has previously trained in helicopter underwater escape training (HUET). Speaking to CNN, she said, “In my opinion, it is nearly impossible for a non-trained passenger to escape.”

The Washington Post reports that the family of one of the victims, Trevor Cadigan, is filing a lawsuit against Liberty Helicopters and FlyNYON for failing to instruct novice passengers in how to properly remove one’s harness in an emergency situation. Richard Vance, the helicopter pilot, is also being sued for not taking appropriate action to get the passengers out of the downed chopper.

Although such events are infrequent and occur unexpectedly, this is hardly the first helicopter accident to occur on New York City’s East River. On both the East and Hudson Rivers, numerous plane and helicopters have crashed over the past decade, including the famed 2009 emergency crash landing on the Hudson commanded by airline pilot Sue Sullenberger. According to the Washington Post, three incidents within the past decade, including the crash on March 11, have involved helicopters owned by Liberty Helicopters.

Gary Robb, the helicopter crash attorney representing Cadigan’s parents, has said of the Cadigans, “It is their strongest desire that this should never happen again,”


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 20th print edition.

Contact Maharsh at


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