NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is new information on the fatal East River chopper crash.
The helicopter company is firing back at a New York Times report that alleges executives were warned of safety concerns months earlier. FlyNYON called the report “fake news,” CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Sunday night.
When the helicopter went down on March 11, the five passengers on board drowned. They were wearing harnesses, tethered to the inside of the helicopter.
The only survivor was the pilot, Richard Vance, who was able to get out by taking off a standard seat belt.
According to the a report in the New York Times, some pilots at FlyNYON, a tour company, said they told executives the harnesses were unsafe two months earlier. They requested more suitable safety gear.
“There’s no way to get out. They’re not approved by the FAA, so they’re just supplemental restraints that you have basically approved yourself,” veteran pilot Bill Richards said.
Richards is not affiliated with FlyNYON, but said employees told him they were concerned about the tools the company gave passengers, including a knife that they would use to cut the harnesses free in an emergency. An attorney for the pilots told CBS2 the FlyNYON’s CEO dismissed those concerns.
“The idea that someone hands a passenger a knife as a means of regress is now and will always be ludicrous,” Richards said.
The flight had no doors, allowing passengers to hang their feet out and take photos. The Federal Aviation Administration prohibited doors-off flights with harnesses, but a month later the company was advertising its “doors-off season.” A new promotional video does not appear to show passengers wearing harnesses.
“It’s very lucrative,” Richards said. “It’s almost one and a half times what they normally get, so I’d say its very — if they get a lot of bookings — it’s very lucrative,” Richards said.
In a statement the company said, “We firmly deny the allegation that anyone at FlyNYON did not heed issues raised by pilots, and that we failed to respond to safety concerns. FlyNYON takes great pride in the safety of our operation.”
The lawyer representing the pilots said she handed over documents between the pilots and company executives to the New York attorney general and the FAA to investigate.