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At least 2 killed as helicopter crashes into East River off Manhattan

At least 2 killed as helicopter crashes into East River off Manhattan

'It almost looked like it was landing; it wasn’t moving fast'
At  least 2 killed as helicopter crashes into East River off Manhattan
A ferry is seen on the East River in New York City in November.
Photographer: Brad Dickson/New York Times

NEW YORK — At least two people were killed after a helicopter with six people on board crashed into the East River off Manhattan on Sunday night, authorities said.

Witnesses said they saw a red helicopter rapidly descend near the north end of Roosevelt Island, which is between Manhattan and Queens, and plunge into the river shortly after 7 p.m.

Emergency responders, including divers with the New York Police Department and fire-rescue boats, were searching for survivors.

Eric Phillips, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said at least two people were killed and another person had been rescued. Divers were still searching for other passengers, he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement that six people were on board. One person was rescued by a tugboat, it said.

People who witnessed the crash said they saw emergency responders pull one person out of the water — a man who was wrapped in a white blanket — and place him in an ambulance at about 8 p.m.

About an hour later, three people were taken out of the water and placed on stretchers. Their conditions were not immediately known, but emergency responders were performing CPR on them.

Video and photos posted on social media showed several police and fire boats shining their lights on the water.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration identified the helicopter as a Eurocopter AS350, a single-engine helicopter that can hold up to six passengers. A Fire Department spokesman said that after the crash, the helicopter was tied up to a tugboat.

Stephen P. Davis, chief spokesman of the New York Police Department, said the helicopter was a commuter helicopter and that a tugboat would likely take it to the East 34th Street Heliport.

Xinran Jiang, who lives on Roosevelt Island with her husband, said they saw a red helicopter rapidly descending near the north end of the island at about 7:08 p.m.

She said the helicopter showed no obvious signs of trouble, such as smoke or erratic flying, before it went into the river.

“It almost looked like it was landing,” Jiang, who watched the crash from her bedroom window, said in an interview. “It wasn’t moving fast. We were curious where it was going to land. Then the next minute, it was diving into the river.”

The couple immediately called 911 and soon saw what appeared to be a tugboat move toward the crash site, searching for people who were onboard.

Jiang said they could not see whether anyone had been rescued.

Arpi Gettings, 43, was having dessert with friends in her apartment on East 92nd Street in Manhattan when they spotted the helicopter speeding toward the East River.

“It caught our attention because it was going really fast toward the river,” Gettings said. “Then it went more steady and it crashed into the river.”

She said she saw what appeared to be an orange raft near the helicopter but could not see whether anyone was on it.

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