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Birthday Helicopter Tour Ends in Tragedy

Just moments after takeoff, a helicopter pilot realized there was a problem. The aircraft’s engine stalled and the vehicle spun out of control, eventually crashing into a nearby river. The pilot escaped the craft, as well as three of the four passengers onboard. One passenger, a woman celebrating her 40th birthday was not so lucky. She remained trapped in the helicopter and was unable to escape after it hit the water.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the incident. Their investigators pulled the Bell 206 chopper from the river and have begun an inspection to determine what went wrong. The helicopter’s rotor was damaged, but it is not clear whether that was the cause of the crash or the result of going into the river.

The flight was a special sightseeing tour for this group from England. A mother and father were taking their daughter and a friend out to celebrate the daughter’s birthday. In a just a few moments, their gift turned into a nightmare. The family is now left to deal with the pain and heartbreak of losing a loved one in a tragic accident.

Single engine aircraft, including helicopters, crash far more frequently than larger craft. The pilots are often less experienced. The maintenance of smaller aircraft may be insufficient. They are more affected by changing weather conditions and rely on the good judgment of pilots and operators to protect their passengers. The NTSB’s investigation will hopefully reveal what caused this terrible aviation accident. The family deserves to understand what went wrong.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Investigation launched After Deadly East River Helicopter Crash,” 5 October 2011

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