Anna Sheffer
Updated March 12, 2018

Yesterday, March 11th, a helicopter crash in New York City’s East River killed five people who were taking a photo tour. The cause of the tragedy is currently under investigation, but the pilot told law enforcement officials that he suspects a passenger’s luggage may have contributed to the crash. But although the exact cause is still unknown, eyewitnesses have documented the crash with chilling video.

One Twitter user, JJ Magers, managed to capture the accident on film and post it to the social media site, tagging CNN and Fox News in his tweet. Magers’ video shows the red helicopter descending into the water with its propellers spinning. At the end of the video, the chopper sinks and appears to turn on its side.

Jeremy Conley, a flight instructor at Helicopter Flight Training Inc., told the New York Times that the chopper’s propellers appear to be spinning from momentum rather than engine power. The helicopter’s pilot, Richard Vance, said in a radio call for help that the engine had failed, so Conley’s explanation of the propellers’ movement supports this. Vance told investigators that a passenger’s luggage may have accidentally pressed a button that cut off the helicopter’s emergency fuel supply, causing the crash.

You can watch Magers’ video below.

Other witnesses captured the moment on film, too.


The helicopter was owned by Liberty Helicopter Tours, which used it for sightseeing. The tour company has had two previous helicopter crashes. One crash took place when a chopper landed in the Hudson River in 2007, but all passengers survived. The second accident occurred in 2009, when another of the company’s helicopters collided with a small plane, resulting in the deaths of nine people. Liberty issued a statement today, March 12th.

Even though air travel is remarkably safe nowadays, accidents do still happen, and the East River helicopter crash is a shocking tragedy. Our hearts go out to the victims’ friends and family.