Bloomberg News

‘Catastrophic’ Malfunction Not Indicated in Helicopter Crash

October 05, 2011

(Updates with safety board’s comments in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The National Transportation Safety Board has found no signs of ‘catastrophic’ mechanical failure in a helicopter that crashed into New York City’s East River yesterday, killing one passenger and injuring three others.

The pilot realized the flight, which took off from the 34th Street Heliport, was in trouble at about 15 feet above the ground, said Board Member Mark Rosekind. The aircraft had maneuvered about 45 degrees into a right turn, and the pilot told investigators he opted not to turn left because that meant heading into a populated area, Rosekind said.

The helicopter was missing part of one rotor blade when it was recovered, the board said earlier today, without indicating whether the damage occurred before the Textron Inc. Bell 206B hit the water or during the crash.

Investigators have uncovered no indication that the aircraft struck birds or that its engine caught fire, Rosekind said at a news conference near the crash site this afternoon. The aircraft flipped after crashing and was found upside down on the riverbed.

Built in 1976, the helicopter was configured for five passengers and its pilot, Paul Dudley of Linden, New Jersey, has been flying since 1985, the board said. Three women passengers were sitting in the rear, and a male passenger occupied the left front seat.

One of the women, Sonia Marra, 40, was killed, the New York Times reported. The other passengers were Marra’s mother, Harriet Nicholson, 60; Nicholson’s husband, Paul, 71; and a friend, Helen Tamaki, 43, the newspaper said, citing a city official it didn’t identify.

Tamaki and Harriet Nicholson were in critical condition today at Bellevue Hospital, a spokesman said.

--Editors: James Langford, Romaine Bostick

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Perlberg in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Langford at

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