Danbury pilot recounts fatal NYC helicopter crash in new report
DANBURY — The Danbury pilot in the fatal New York City helicopter crash recounted the accident to investigators in a report released Monday.
Richard Vance, 33, was the sole survivor of the crash that killed five passengers earlier this month. Vance escaped from the Eurocopter AS350 and was rescued by a tugboat, but the other passengers could not free themselves from their harnesses and died when the helicopter turned over in the water.
Vance noticed a problem with the helicopter as he flew over the eastern side of Central Park, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board Aviation. He told investigators the helicopter turned right faster than he expected and he then saw engine and fuel pressure warning lights.
Vance considered landing in Central Park, but realized there were too many people, so he flew to the East River and made a distress call to air traffic control. He failed to start the engine and prepared to land on the water, but then realized the emergency fuel shutoff lever was off. The report said a portion of the front passenger seat’s tether was underneath the lever.
When he turned the emergency fuel shutoff lever back on, the engine instruments responded immediately, the report said. But the helicopter had fallen too close to the water and Vance was forced to turn off the lever and try other means to prevent the crash, the report described.
When the helicopter hit the river, Vance’s side began to fill with water. Vance did not unbuckle his seat belt until he was fully underwater, climbed out of the plane and waved for help, according to the report.
Vance said he had performed a pre-flight inspection and given safety instructions, including how to use a tool to cut their seat belts if necessary, to the passengers before take-off.