Investigators have located the body of a fourth victim in the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed after colliding with a plane over the Hudson River in New York, a source close to the investigation said.
Rescue workers have not yet recovered the body, believed to be among nine victims of the collision, the source said late Saturday night. So far, only three bodies, including that of a child, have been recovered — all of them from the Piper PA-32 Saratoga, which apparently took off from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport. The victims in the single-engine plane have been identified as: Steven Altman, the pilot and owner of the plane; his brother, Daniel; and nephew Douglas. The sightseeing helicopter was carrying five Italian tourists visiting New York from Bologna and a pilot, a law enforcement source told CNN. The tourists were part of a larger group of 12 visiting the United States, the source said. The helicopter was operated by Liberty Helicopter Sightseeing Tours. The Italian Foreign Ministry said consulate officials were working with New York authorities to identify the victims. Helicopter wreckage was found in about 30 feet of water, while the plane is believed to be near the mid-channel point of the Hudson in deeper water, the source said. A side-scanning sonar is being used to pinpoint the plane and has identified possibly a third debris field, the source said. See where the collision occurred » The search effort was scheduled to resume Sunday morning, Debbie Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a riverside news conference late Saturday. Divers were having problems because underwater visibility was about 2 feet. All nine people were believed killed in the crash, said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He called the collision a “great tragedy.” “There was an accident which we do not believe was survivable,” Bloomberg told reporters, adding that the search for survivors had become a recovery mission. A temporary flight restriction over the rescue area — about three nautical miles around and 2,000 feet up — was put in place, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said. A witness told investigators he saw the airplane approach the helicopter from behind, and the plane’s right wing made “contact with the helicopter,” Hersman said. The witness, another Liberty pilot who was refueling at a nearby heliport, said he tried to warn the helicopter pilot, but got no response. “This is a VFR corridor — that means Visual Flight Rules prevail,” Hersman told reporters late Saturday. “You are supposed to be alert, and see and avoid other aircraft in the vicinity.” She said investigators are reviewing air traffic control data, but she was not aware of any distress calls. FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said radar contact was lost with a small plane Saturday morning, and that is the aircraft the agency believes crashed. Witnesses reported seeing debris flying from the helicopter as it slammed into the water. View images from the scene » Ben Berman, a former investigator with the NTSB, said if the helicopter plummeted straight down, it likely had rotor failure. Arnold Stevens, who witnessed the collision from the W Hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey, said the helicopter “dropped like a rock.” After one of the plane’s wings was sheared off, it began “corkscrewing” into the water, he said. See a series of photos from the scene » Scott Schuman was walking along the Hoboken side of the Hudson with his grandparents when they heard a loud bang. “The plane was kind of whirlybirding its way down, brown smoke coming out the back of it, and it crashed into the water. Then a few seconds later the helicopter with debris falling off of it also hit as well,” Schuman told CNN. “It was a scary sight,” he added. He said some of the debris fell in Hoboken, and “we covered our heads.” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer called on witnesses who filmed or photographed the incident to come forward, saying, “It would be extremely helpful to have that footage.” iReport.com: Were you there Send images The busy airspace surrounding New York’s Manhattan island has been the site of several recent aeronautical mishaps. Earlier this year, a US Airways plane with 155 people on board ditched into the Hudson after apparently striking birds upon takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, officials said.
Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger’s landing, which resulted in no deaths or serious injuries, was captured on closed-circuit television. In 2006, Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, 34, and his flight instructor were killed when the ballplayer’s plane crashed into a high-rise apartment building near the East River, city officials said.