Part of the small plane that collided with a sightseeing helicopter over the busy skies of Manhattan has been removed from the Hudson River, and crews said they found the bodies of the final two victims inside the fuselage.
The red-and-white section of the single-engine Piper came free of the murky and fast-moving river late this afternoon. Nine people died in Saturday's crash - -six people on the helicopter and three in the plane. The two bodies found today are believed to belong to the plane's pilot and his brother.
Dangerous currents and poor visibility had complicated the search efforts and the plane's fuselage, buried under 60 feet of water, had drifted considerably since the Saturday afternoon collision.
The crash has spurred heated debate over the rules governing low-altitude flights over New York City. The National Transportation Safety Board said it had suggested ways to make the heavily trafficked fly zone over the Hudson River safer for aircraft -- but was ignored.
NTSB chief Debbie Hersman says her agency recommended safety measures for small planes and helicopters flying in the area to the Federal Aviation Administration, but the latter agency never implemented its suggestions, according to published reports.
"We believe if the recommendations were implemented, aviation safety would be improved," she said, according to the Daily News.
Pilots and officials have said the devastating mid-air collision could have been foreseen; more than 200 aircraft fly within three miles of the crash site on a daily basis. Current rules allow helicopters to fly without contact if sightseeing over the Hudson and below 1,100 feet, but many are calling for new guidelines after this weekend's tragedy.
Hersman maintains the busy skyway would be safer if the FAA heeded her organization's advice.
While the FAA did not respond directly to Hersman's comments, the agency said it would consider suggestions from the NTSB after the investigation into the crash is completed, which could take months.
A suburban Philadelphia development executive, his brother and teenage nephew and an Italian tourist group and their pilot were killed in Saturday's crash.
Friend of Chopper Pilot Gave Last Warning
Meanwhile, politicians have taken 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.
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."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced an emergency oversight hearing of the Council's Transportation Committee would convene later this month, reports the News.
"For too long, the FAA has taken a wait-and-see approach when it comes to air traffic over the Hudson," Quinn said. "It's time for the city to review and analyze our policies when it comes to air traffic over our neighborhoods."
The air accident, the deadliest in the New York City area since the 2001 crash of a commercial jet in Queens killed 265 people.