VIDEO: Tourist killed and four injured when helicopter plunges into New York’s East River
ONE woman has died after a helicopter carrying a group of four tourists plunged into New York's East River shortly after take-off.
The body of the victim, named by police as Sonia Marra, a UK ex-pat who was living in Australia, was recovered from the water by emergency workers following yesterday's tragedy.
Two women passengers, aged 43 and 60, were seriously injured in the crash and are in a critical condition, while a 56-year-old man, believed to be the helicopter pilot, and a 71-year-old man have both been released from hospital.
Three of the survivors are British nationals, according to officials.
The helicopter was on a private tour when it crashed into the river at 3.20pm local time yesterday, shortly after lifting off from the busy 34th Street Heliport.
It is believed Ms Marra, who lived in Sydney, was visiting New York with her family to celebrate her 40th birthday.
According to reports, she was trapped inside the helicopter as it sank about 50 feet below the surface of the swift-moving water.
The British Foreign Office today confirmed her death.
A spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that three British nationals were involved in a helicopter crash in New York. One of them has been killed. Next of kin has been informed and we are providing consular assistance to the family."
The NYPD confirmed that the two injured female passengers are in a critical condition in New York's Bellevue Hospital.
A spokesman from the New York City Fire Department said one of the injured women had suffered a cardiac arrest and the other a respiratory arrest.
The American pilot, Paul Dudley, director of Linden Airport in New Jersey, and the elderly male passenger, were discharged from hospital after being examined by doctors, police said.
Mayor Bloomberg said it had been "a terrible accident" involving people who had come "to see the best of our city".
He added: "We think, and bear in mind the story changes every minute, but we believe two were Brits who lived in Portugal, two lived in Australia, one probably was Australian and one was English, but that's changed a number of times, and we're still trying to talk to the families."
He said he believed the two Britons who lived in Portugal were a couple.
Giving a press conference at the scene, the mayor told journalists: "One young woman, I'm sorry to say, did not make it. The body was recovered at roughly 4.40 this afternoon.
"The pilot was rescued very quickly, and brought ashore.
"It's our understanding that the passengers knew the pilot, they were all friends."
He added: "All New Yorkers feel for this family, and we wish it had not happened and our prayers are with the deceased."
He said the privately-owned Bell Helicopter which was based in Linden, New Jersey, crashed "just after taking off" from the heliport on the East Side of Manhattan Island.
Describing the events that led to the crash, Mayor Bloomberg said: "From what we know so far the pilot reported having trouble keeping aloft, tried to turn back, but crashed in the water just north of the landing pad."
He said emergency services arrived on the scene to see the helicopter upside-down "with only the skids showing on the surface".
He added: "We pride ourselves on being the most welcoming city in the world and to have a family come here to see the best of our city and end up in a tragic accident like this just breaks your heart."
Witnesses said the helicopter was sputtering and appeared to be in mechanical distress before coming down in the river. A dozen boats and divers took part in a rescue effort before the passengers were pulled from the water.
Joy Garnett and her husband were waiting to take the East River ferry to Brooklyn when they heard the blades of a helicopter and saw it start to take off from the nearby helipad. It then did a "funny curlicue", Mrs Garnett said.
She added: "I thought, 'Is that some daredevil move?'. But it was obviously out of control.
"The body spun around at least two or three times, and then it went down."
The helicopter flipped over once it was in the water, with onlookers throwing life jackets and buoys down to those inside.
Witness Carlos Acevedo said: "It sank fast. In seconds. Like the water was sucking it in."
The helicopter has now been removed from the river by emergency services.