Saturday, July 21News That Matters

Tour helicopter crashes into East River, pilot scrambles to safety

A tourist helicopter plunged into the East River on Sunday night, leaving at least five people trapped inside the sinking vessel while the pilot scrambled to safety, police sources said.

The Eurocopter AS350 went down around 88th Street, near Gracie Mansion, at about 7:15 p.m., sources said.

The pilot was able to get out and climb aboard a raft — but five others remained trapped inside the upside-down helicopter, according to sources.

Witness Mary Lee, 66, told The Post that she saw the chopper go down from her apartment window and said she “immediately thought someone was in there and not going to live — it’s cold water, it was sinking really fast.

“By the time we got out here, we couldn’t see it. It was under water.”

Video posted to Twitter showed a red chopper splash down in the river and then quickly go belly-up as its rotors violently hacked at the water.

Within minutes, the helicopter disappeared beneath the waves, witness John Magers, 24, told The Post.

“It looked like it was completely submerged,” he said. “It couldn’t have been any longer than 5 minutes.”

A witness told NY1, “We heard it hit the water, and then automatically, it drowned.”

Her friend added, “It landed to the side, and then it flipped over, and then for about a minute and a half, no one came out of the water, so all of us immediately called 911. And then we saw one guy climb onto the raft.”

Police deployed two divers, and one person was taken to Bellevue Hospital, sources said.

There are only two Eurocopter AS350’s registered with the FAA in the tri-state area — both to the New Jersey parent company of tour operator Fly Liberty Charters, FAA records show.

Fly Liberty could not immediately be reached for comment.

The FAA said it is investigating.

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