NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday continued to comb through the wreckage of a helicopter that went down in the East River Sunday, killing five people on board, in hopes of pinpointing what exactly went wrong.
New video from the NTSB shows investigators shining a flashlight and taking photos inside the damaged helicopter. It’s the first close up look of the chopper that plunged into the frigid water near Roosevelt Island.
Only the pilot survived. An NYPD source says he considered trying to land in Central Park but was worried about finding a place in the dark, so he went for the water thinking the helicopter’s floatation devices would keep the passengers safe.
Police say the left flotation didn’t work, and the aircraft sank and flooded. Safety harnesses meant to protect the people on board the open-door sightseeing flight were so hard to remove that the victims were trapped.
Divers had to cut through those harnesses to free the bodies.
“I’m obviously very frustrated with the harness system which forced my brother to drown,” Brendan Hill said to CBS2 in a phone call Tuesday night. “Obviously there’s part of me that wants to blame the pilot. It’s part of the grieving process. It’s easier to blame someone than try to figure out why something like this could happen.”
Brendan describes his brother, 29-year-old Tristan, as an adrenaline junkie. He had recently moved to New York from Reno, Nevada.
“As of right now we’re still in shock and disbelief at the fact he didn’t pull through,” Brendan said. “He always survived everything. He was invincible.”
Also killed in the crash was 26-year-old Brian McDaniel. The firefighter’s body was brought back to Dallas, Texas on Tuesday with his brothers in uniform there to salute him.
“Always energetic, a happy guy,” Lieutenant Ray Smith said. “Just somebody you like to be around.”
As the NTSB continues its work in New York, serious questions about those harnesses are no doubt a focal point of the investigation.
An attorney for victim Trevor Cadigan told CBS2 the family intends to sue Liberty Helicopters, which owned the aircraft. He said, “We could like the company to cease and desist this reckless and unsafe helicopter operation.”
The company has not commented.