Updated at 11:57 p.m. ET
A helicopter carrying six people crashed into New York City’s East River on Sunday evening, killing two people. An additional three people are in critical condition and the pilot escaped alive, authorities say.
“The pilot freed himself. The other five did not,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a news conference Sunday night. All five passengers were recovered from the helicopter by divers deployed by police and firefighters, he said. Three people were found in critical condition and have been taken to the hospital, Nigro said. Two others were pronounced dead on the scene.
“The pilot is OK, he was taken to the hospital to be checked out,” Fire Commissioner Nigro said. He “was taken by one of our fire boats ashore” he added.
While the pilot managed to escape the capsized aircraft in good shape, police said the safety harnesses meant to protect the five passengers prevented them from freeing themselves quickly from the overturned helicopter.
“These harnesses had to be removed in order to get these folks off of this helicopter, which was upside down at the time,” Nigro said.
The Eurocopter AS350 went down in the waters between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens just after 7 p.m. ET, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the helicopter, which had been privately chartered for a photo shoot, is owned by touring company Liberty Helicopters.
Before police confirmed the fatalities, a bystander who caught the crash on video posted a clip to Twitter, showing the helicopter plunging into the river before flipping over with its blades chopping at the water.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.
This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.