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Report: Tour Helicopter That Crashed Into East River Was Too Heavy

A helicopter carrying five people crashed into the East River Oct 4, 2011 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A helicopter carrying five people crashed into the East River Oct 4, 2011 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A federal report released Thursday revealed a helicopter that crashed into the East River on a sightseeing tour last year was carrying too much weight.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board doesn’t conclude what caused the crash. That will likely be determined in two months.

The report said the Bell 206 chopper was carrying an estimated 3,228 pounds when it crashed shortly after takeoff on Oct. 4, 2011. The aircraft’s capacity was 3,200 pounds.

Five people were on board. Sonia Marra, 40, died as a result of the crash. Her body was found in the wreckage of the helicopter underwater. First responders who plumbed the depths to recover her body said she was not strapped in by a seat belt.

Helen Tamaki, 43, Paul Nicholson, 71, and his wife Harriet Nicholson, 60, were all pulled from the water and taken to Bellevue Hospital.

Tamaki died a week after the crash; Harriet died a month later.

The group was flying to celebrate Marra’s and her stepfather Paul Nicholson’s birthday.

Paul Dudley, the pilot, managed to swim to safety. Dudley owns Linden Airport Services, which manages the Linden Municipal Airport. He is an experienced pilot and has even been in an emergency situation before.

Paul Nicholson and Dudley were the only survivors.

The NTSB report said Dudley, 56, told investigators he asked passengers’ weights and calculated they wouldn’t be too heavy.

Nicholson said Dudley didn’t ask or calculate the total weight.

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(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)