Police divers this afternoon found a man's body in the wreckage of a private plane that collided with a sightseeing helicopter and killed nine people over the weekend. So far, rescue crews have found eight of the nine victims from the midair collision.
Police said divers can't dislodge the body from the wreckage, which is buried in about 60 feet of water. NYPD officials are now conferring with the Army Corps of Engineers about lifting the aircraft to the surface.
A suburban Philadelphia development executive, his brother and teenage nephew and an Italian tourist group and their pilot were killed in Saturday's crash in the busy skies of Manhattan. The helicopter was raised from the water on Sunday.
All six victims from the helicopter and one teenage boy on the plane have been pulled from the waters in the two days since the crash. It is unclear whether the body found today is that of the plane's pilot or his brother.
The development came as Italian prosecutors reportedly opened a manslaughter probe into the mid-air collision that killed five Bolognese tourists on the helicopter.
"I want to know everything, I want there to be a full investigation, " Silvia Rigamonti, who lost her son and husband in the crash said as soon as she returned home, the Daily News reported. "It's not possible that such things should happen."
Rigamonti lost her husband Michelle Norelli and their 16-year-old son, Filippo, and their friends the Gallazzi family on the flight which was all part of a 25-anniversary celebration.
A rep for the Italian consulate said that an investigation is standard procedure when countrymen die overseas from anything besides natural causes.
Earlier in New York at a press conference at City Hall, the Mayor Bloomberg appeared with Italian ambassador Giovanni Castalleneta.
"On behalf of all New Yorkers, our condolences," said Bloomberg.
"I asked the mayor to speed up the inquiry so the family can know what really happened," said Castalleneta.
Divers today located the wreckage of the single-engine Piper plan in about 60 feet of water in the middle of the river.
Strong currents, which have complicated rescue efforts, apparently moved the plane from closer to the New Jersey side of the river, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.
As the rescue efforts continue, some experts say the incident was a tragedy in waiting.
“We were borderline surprised that it took so long for something like this to happen,” helicopter pilot Ben Lane
, 34, told the Daily News.
“The issue is these weekend warriors,” Lane said. “I don’t care if they are life-long pilots, 90 percent of the time they don’t make a radio call. The professional pilots down here who fly all the time, we do a borderline excessive amount of radio calls.”
Lane, a colleague of doomed chopper pilot Jeremy Clarke
, tried to warn his friend only moments before the fatal collision between the helicopter and private plane over the Hudson River that killed nine people.
"I wish I knew which way to tell him to turn."
He said that his friend Clarke always made safety a priority.
“He was our superman, he was, you know, he might as well have worn a cape,” Lane told NBCNewYork. "He took pride in what he did."
And Dan Rose
, a former Navy Pilot who often flies his Cirrus SR-22 over the Hudson told the New York Times
that the electronic warning system on his plane squeals “Traffic, Traffic” so much on weekend flights that his head is “constantly on a swivel.”
Politicians took the opportunity to call for tighter regulation of the skies above the river and denounced the system of air traffic control on the Hudson that allows pilots to fly the busy corridor incommunicado.
“Saturday's terrible crash is a tragic and powerful reminder of what we have known for some time -- that New York's airspace is far too congested to be unregulated by the FAA,” said congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents the West Side, at a press midday conference.
“It is unconscionable that the FAA permits unregulated flights in a crowded airspace in a major metropolitan area. We demand that the FAA stop avoiding its responsibility and hiding behind non-existent legal restrictions. The Hudson River flight corridor must not continue to be the Wild West.”
“It’s not enough to look at a tragedy like this, at the loss of nine lives and at the danger such a crash poses to millions of New Yorkers on the ground, and say that we simply need pilots to fly more responsibly,” added Manhattan Borough President Stringer. “The FAA must put an end to the pattern of tragedy that has taken hold of New York’s skies over the last few years. The 'see and avoid' strategy of air safety is not working. It is neither responsible nor fair to expect an air corridor this congested to oversee itself.”
For his part, Mayor Bloomberg said he wouldn't lobby to change air traffic patterns over the Hudson corridor, but the avid flyer didn't say he was against changes either.
"I’m not going to pressure the FAA. They don’t need me weighing in," Bloomberg said during a press conference this morning. "They know what goes on there. They are professionals."
Bloomberg said he didn't think the airport control towers at Newark and LaGuardia airport had neither the money nor the manpower to enforce tighter flying rules over the Hudson River corridor.
The "pilots' first responsibility is to see and avoid," said Bloomberg.
The Federal Aviation Administration is currently working with the National Transportation Safety Board as they determine the facts of the crash, to determine if any regulatory changes should be made in the wake of the tragic collision.
"The reason we are party to the investigation is so that if we determine there are any safety issues that need to be acted on, we can take those actions," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told the Times.
The city medical examiner has all seven of the recovered bodies. The only two that haven't been recovered are plane pilot Steven Altman and his brother Daniel Altman, according to spokeswoman Ellen Borakove. The ME is expected to release a report this afternoon indicating whether the victims died instantly or after the crash and fall into the river.
Published at 7:57 AM EDT on Aug 11, 2009