Pilot Escapes Nearly Unscathed After NYC Helicopter Plunge

NEW YORK—A helicopter crash-landed in the Hudson River near a busy Manhattan heliport on Wednesday, May 15, and partially sank, but not before the pilot was able to escape mostly unscathed.

The 34-year-old pilot suffered just a minor hand injury after the hard splashdown, which happened just before 2:30 p.m. and was recorded by bystanders who saw the aircraft in trouble and whipped out their mobile phones.

“The pilot was uninjured and safely removed to land by a nearby passenger ferry,” the New York Police Department (NYPD) said on Twitter.

No other people were aboard but a dockworker trying to get out of the way of the descending aircraft slipped and injured his wrist, fire and police officials said.

In a video released on Twitter by CBS, the helicopter, a charter aircraft, can be seen lifted out of the water on Wednesday afternoon by a marine crane after it was about 90 minutes in the river.

At a news conference, authorities said the pilot had just taken off from the helipad after refueling when something went wrong.

“All of a sudden, he felt the helicopter go down,” said Police Department Assistant Chief Stephen Hughes.

A mobile phone video of the helicopter going down, showed it descending into the river about 150 feet from the helipad. The aircraft came down quickly, but it wasn’t in freefall. Its blades were rotating. Emergency pontoons inflated moments before it hit the water.

Anthony Raisley, 20, a college student from Middletown, New Jersey, said he and a friend were at the nearby High Line park, watching the river, when they noticed the aircraft spinning and wobbling in a way that didn’t seem normal.

They thought it might be a stunt.

“The next thing you know, it was out of sight,” Raisley said.

His reaction: “Just shock. You see this stuff in the news, and you never think you’ll witness it.”

The pilot, who was not immediately identified by authorities, quickly scrambled on to the aircraft’s pontoons.

The helicopter eventually capsized and sank mostly beneath the water but was kept from going to the bottom by the floats.

The FAA identified the helicopter as a Bell 206.

NTD Photo
In this image made from video provided by WABC-TV, harbor units from the N.Y.C. police and fire departments work to secure a helicopter to the dock after it crashed in the Hudson River in N.Y. on May 15, 2019. (WABC-TV via AP)

New York City has a history of both minor and major helicopter wrecks and crash landings.

Five people died when a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the East River last year. Three people died in another crash into the same river in 2011. Nine people died in a collision between a sightseeing helicopter and a small plane in 2009, not far from the scene of Wednesday’s mishap.

NTD News staff contributed to this article.

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