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'Out of control' helicopter with 5 aboard crashes into NYC's East River, 4 rescued, 1 missing
NEW YORK (AP) ' A helicopter with five people aboard crashed into the East River on Tuesday afternoon after taking off from a launch pad on the riverbank, seriously injuring at least two people and leaving one missing.
The pilot and three others were pulled alive from the water by rescue crews shortly after the chopper went down. Authorities were searching for one other passenger, believed to be female, but the Bell 206 helicopter was submerged in the murky water, police spokesman Paul Browne said.
The private chopper went into the river off 34th Street in midtown Manhattan. It's unclear what happened.
A massive rescue effort was under way with a dozen boats and divers down into the cold, grey water.
The conditions of those who were rescued weren't immediately available. The fire department said at least two people on board were taken to area hospitals in serious condition.
Joy Garnett and her husband were on the dock 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. She said she saw it do "a funny curlicue."
"I thought, 'Is that some daredevil move?'" she said. "But it was obviously out of control. The body spun around at least two or three times, and then it went down."
She said the chopper had lifted about 25 feet off the ground before it dropped into the water without much of a splash. It flipped over, and the blades were sticking up out of the river. She said people on the dock started throwing in life jackets and buoys. Two people came up out of the waves.
"It didn't make much noise," she said. "It was just a splash and sunk."
The Bell 206 Jet Ranger is one of the world's most popular helicopter models and was first flown in January 1966. They are light and highly maneuverable, making them popular with television stations and air taxi companies. A new one costs between $700,000 and $1.2 million.
On Aug. 8, 2009 a small plane collided with a helicopter over the East River, killing nine people, including five Italian tourists. A government safety panel found that an air traffic controller who was on a personal phone call had contributed to the accident.
The Federal Aviation Administration changed its rules for aircraft flying over New York City's rivers after that collision. Pilots must call out their positions on the radio and obey a 161 mph speed limit. Before the changes, such radio calls were optional.
Earlier that year, an Airbus 320 airliner landed in the Hudson River after hitting birds and losing both engines shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. The flight, U.S. Airways Flight 1549, became known as the Miracle on the Hudson plane.
Associated Press writers Chris Hawley and Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.