In March, a helicopter crashed into the East River. The doorless vehicle featured harnesses that allowed passengers to move freely in the cabin. The tour helicopter’s fuel valve was accidentally closed. The pilot, the only one not wearing the harness, was the only one to escape as the the chopper fell into the East River. The passengers were all between their late 20’s to early 30’s. The helicopter crashed near East 86th Street, and was recovered after it floated downriver while fully submerged near East 23rd. The event can change the course of laws involving tour vehicles in NYC.
The helicopter tour group had the doors of the vehicles taken off. While this is fairly common with NYC tour helicopters, the altered nature of the vehicle may have contributed to the disabled fuel valve. Federal officials suspended the use of doorless tour helicopters in New York for the time being.
The harnesses worn by the passengers in the helicopter prevented the passengers from escaping. The harnesses were secured in order to have people on board walk around our hang their feet out; a photo-op advertised by the tour company. The harnesses had a built in pouch with a tool to cut them open in the event of a crash. The passengers were notified of this. None of the passengers got out of the copter. Investigations have looked into the possibility that the harness tethers might have accidentally hit the valve switch that caused the helicopter to go down.
Tours in the Future
While often an attractive quality in a tour helicopter, doorless vehicles can pose more of a danger to passengers than one with doors. Harnesses such as those used by the tour company are being called into question as the families are suing not only the tour company, but the harness producers as well. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued new regulations for tour helicopters and harnesses.
The tour group has stated on it’s website that it is “focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigations.” When tragedies such as this occur, it is important to know what your rights are, and when to turn to your attorney.
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