From the BBC:
Five people were killed when a helicopter crashed into the East River of New York City on Sunday evening, police say.
Divers worked desperately to pull the five passengers from the helicopter but two of them died at the scene while the other three died in hospital.
The pilot managed to free himself and was rescued by a passing tugboat.
At a press conference, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called it a “great tragedy”.
“We are told the five people were all tied tightly in harnesses that had to be cut and removed,” he said.
There’s a reason why people who fly over water in helicopters for work take the training I describe here:
They do train us to escape from a helicopter that has ditched in the sea and turned turtle, and I wrote about when I did this course shortly after I arrived in Nigeria. They rig up a simulated helicopter fuselage complete with seats and pop-out windows, you all climb in and take your seats, and then they dunk you in the water. They do this 6 times, and for the last 3 times they spin the whole apparatus upside down, and you’re expected to unbuckle yourself and get out. It’s a lot easier than it sounds, once you remember that the window on your right-hand side is still on your right-hand side even when you’ve been tipped upside down.
The training only makes a difference if the helicopter goes into the water in a reasonably controlled manner – if the rotors shear off and it drops like an anvil, forget it – but in this crash in New York the pilot managed to get out. This is almost certainly because he had the training and experience to know what to do, whereas the passengers had none. If they’d been trained, chances are they’d have got out. You’d still not fancy your chances, but there are numerous accounts of people escaping from a ditched helicopter thanks to their training and the statistics show the training is worthwhile. If I were a businessman who regularly flew helicopters around New York, I’d splash out the few hundred bucks for the course and make sure I sat beside the window.