Helicopter in 2011 East River Crash Was Too Heavy: NTSB

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012  |  Updated 1:45 PM EDT
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    Video: Helicopter Crash in East River

    Amateur video taken just after a helicopter crashed in the East River. Courtesy Steven Castro.
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    The helicopter that crashed into the East River in October of 2011, killing three people on board, was too heavy to be in the air, according to a report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

    The NTSB report released the facts of the crash, but did not conclude the crash. A probable cause will likely be determined in two months.

    The Bell206B helicopter carrying the pilot and four passengers crashed into the river shortly after takeoff from East 34th Street Heliport on the afternoon of Oct. 4, 2011. One passenger was found dead in the wreckage and two others died later of injuries related to the crash.

    The pilot and one other passenger survived the crash.

    In its report issued Dec. 20, the NTSB said the estimated takeoff weight of the helicopter at the time of the accident was calculated to be 3,228. The manufacturer's maximum allowable gross weight at takeoff was 3,200 pounds. 

    The pilot, Paul Dudley, told investigators after the crash that the passengers reported their weights to him after boarding the helicopter and that he estimated the total load at takeoff, including passengers and fuel, to be 1,131 pounds.

    But the surviving front-seat passenger, a friend of Dudley, told investigators the pilot did not ask for anyone's weight and never filled out any paperwork or performed any calculations before takeoff. 

    The passenger also said he brought along his daughter and her friend at the last minute, and "he believed the pilot may not have anticipated the two additional passengers beyond him and his wife."

    Dudley is the same pilot who safely landed a Cessna 172 in Calvert Vaux Park near Coney Island in November 2006. In that case, the plane's engine failed and Dudley was forced to make an emergency landing.

    Sonia Marra, 40, died in the river. Her girlfriend, Helen Tamaki, 43, and her mother, Harriet Nicholson, 60, died later. 

    Marra's stepfather, 71-year-old Paul Nicholson, survived. 

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