PHOTOS: Feds Interview Everyone But the Pilot in Fatal NYC Helicopter Crash

NTSB helicopter crash investigation

NTSB East River NYC helicopter crash investigation

National Transportation Safety Board investigators are examining every part of the helicopter, brought in French aviation experts, and then interviewed witnesses, conducted interviews with first responders and with rescuers, interviewed the helicopter company’s chief pilot and even spoke with New York Police Department about victims’ personal effects. The one person the NTSB has not yet spoken to is the pilot, Richard “Rick” Vance.

Northeast HelicoptersRick Vance’s bio on

“Interview with accident pilot to be scheduled,” said the NTSB. It is unclear why Vance has not been interviewed and why there’s not even a date yet set for an interview.

NTSB Go Team, led by Board Member Bella Dinh-Zarr, are enroute to NYC for investigation of March 11, 2018, helicopter crash in East River.

— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) March 12, 2018

Vance was the lone survivor of the crash under bright, clear blue skies over New York City Sunday. Vance reportedly told police a strap from passenger luggage flipped off an emergency switch, the New York Post reported. Then Vance said it was a loose passenger tether which experts and even the NTSB said was unlikely.

The Post reported an expert said the switched off lever explanation was “highly implausible.” The lever is on the floor by the pilot’s seat and needs to be pulled back, the expert told the paper. Aviation lawyer Gary Robb said it’s more likely “the pilot simply activated the wrong lever.”

When asked about the pilot’s claim Monday at a news conference, NTSB Vice Chair Bella Dinh-Zarr said the agency has seen it all but added, “I have personally not seen this type of accident happen.”

NTSBNTSB East River NYC helicopter crash investigation

When the helicopter went in the water it was “substantially damaged,” the NTSB said and “subsequently rolled inverted during an autorotation.” In other words, the helicopter was upside down in the frigid East River. Vance escaped using a raft and screamed for help and was rescued by a passing tugboat. But the five passengers were, tragically, harnessed so tightly into their seats there was no escape. NYPD divers freed them eventfully, cutting them out, but two of the passengers were already dead and officials said three were transported to Bellevue in critical condition. Within a few hours, they too were dead.

NTSB NYC Helicopter Crash Investigation

The NTSB said in its first report, which does not yet determine the cause of the crash, that Vance radioed LaGuardia Airport air traffic control tower for entry into the Class B airspace while flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet.

Heavy has the recording

Approximately five minutes later, the pilot declared “Mayday” and stated that the helicopter’s engine had failed. “Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the scheduled 30-minute aerial photography flight that was operated by Liberty Helicopters under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.” NTSB-speak for a beautiful cloudless sky where you could see for miles. The flight originated from Helo Kearny Heliport …read more



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