The NYC Helicopter Crash May Have Been Caused by a Safety Strap

Mar 26, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

A passenger’s safety tether wrapped around an emergency fuel shutoff lever might have caused the engine failure of the helicopter that crashed into New York City’s East River and killed the five passengers on board, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board released Monday.

A portion of the front seat passenger’s safety tether was found underneath the lever, which was in the “off” position as the helicopter went into engine failure, according to the NTSB’s interview of the helicopter pilot, who was the crash’s sole survivor.

Federal inspectors interviewed the 33-year-old pilot, Richard Vance, and examined the aircraft and its engine. According to the interview, shortly after the helicopter went into engine failure, he established an autorotative glide and considered landing in nearby Central Park. But, he thought there would be “too many people,” so he veered toward the East River. He then made a distress call saying the aircraft was in engine failure, and tried twice to restart the engine to no avail.

Aiming for the East River, the pilot activated the helicopter’s floats and “committed to impact.” “When he reached down for the emergency fuel shutoff lever, he realized that it was in the off position,” the report states. “He also noted that a portion of the front seat passenger’s tether was underneath the lever.”

As the helicopter descended to 600 feet, the pilot switched the fuel shutoff level back to the “on” position, and tried to restart the engine again. The engine’s instruments were showing positive indications, which meant it was restarting, but at 300 feet, the pilot realized the engine “wasn’t spooling up fast enough,” and the aircraft was too close to the water’s surface. So, he flipped the emergency fuel shutoff back to the “off” position and continued the descent in autorotation.

After the helicopter made impact on the river, the aircraft began to fill with water, and the pilot tried to free the passenger in the front seat. Reaching for the harness’ carabiner that attached to the helicopter, the pilot “turned the knurled screw ‘two or three rotations’; by that time, the helicopter was ‘listing past a 45° roll,'” the report says.

The pilot then decided to evacuate the helicopter. According to the report: “By the time he unbuckled his restraint, he was fully under water.” He then pulled himself free by the door frame, stood on the belly of the helicopter and waved for help.

The report also states that before the engine began to fail, one of the passengers was riding without his restraint, which was hanging from the front seat. The pilot “picked it up, tapped the passenger, and told him to put it back on, which he did,” the report says.

When NTSB officials examined the Eurocopter AS350B2, the report says they found, “the fuel flow control lever was found in the off position. The fuel shutoff lever was found in the open position.”

The New York helicopter company, Liberty Helicopters, has had two previous crashes, one of them also fatal, in the past 11 years. Since the crash occurred on March 11, the FAA has temporarily banned “doors-off” helicopter flights that involve restraints that can not be released quickly in an emergency.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.