Five photographers were killed when their helicopter rented for a photo shoot crashed into the East River in New York City. Tragedy struck on the evening of March 11th, from one of the most beautiful views of the New York City skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the waterways that surround her. Five passengers rented a Eurocopter As350 through the Ariel photography service FLYNYON for an open door tour over the city. The crew went through a training brief and then took off to capture the many sites of New York City from above. Eleven minutes into their flight the helicopter suddenly dove towards the East River and within minutes sank beneath the waves and turned upside down.
The pilot was able to escape and is alive, all five individuals were unable to release themselves from their harnesses. Although the crash is rumored to have been caused by a passengers bag somehow hitting a shutoff switch, blame for the deaths are being placed on the harnesses not being easy enough to release in an emergency. In this video from Jared Polin explains the crash and shows us just how secure photographers get strapped down to helicopters like this one from their backs. The harnessing method used made it impossible for them to break free from their harnesses as the copter dove into the river.
The National transportation board held a press release this afternoon announcing their investigation into the crash and their hopes to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The board is working alongside NYPD to determine the cause as well as recover the cameras and other gear on board. The team will be on scene investigating for five to seven days.
Photographer and journalist Eric Adams attended the pre-flight briefing with the five passengers, he took off in a different helicopter where he captured the beautiful yet now unsettling image of the fallen helicopter in front of a purple sunset, flying above the Statue of Liberty. Eric has done this many times, so I asked him if he had any tips on shooting from the air. Adams explained that the most important thing taking the safety briefing we all shrug our shoulders at in commercial airlines seriously. Before you take off he advises on being absolutely sure you're capable of unlocking yourself, testing the process of releasing your harness, knowing where the knife is, and testing all your seat buckles once inside to familiarize yourself with how they work. Adams suggests if you don't feel you are getting the right training for emergencies, make them give it to you or reconsider the flight. You can read Eric's personal write-up of his entire flight experience and the tragedy here.
Images used with permission of Eric Adams