Investigators of the National Transportation Safety Board examine the helicopter that went into the East River in New York City on Sunday, which resulted in the deaths of five people. Photo courtesy National Transportation Safety Board/Twitter
March 14 (UPI) -- The family of a passenger killed in a helicopter crash in New York City last weekend has filed a lawsuit in the case, saying negligence led to the deaths of five people.
The crash occurred Sunday evening in the East River, off 89th East Street in Manhattan. Of the six people aboard, only the pilot survived. The National Transportation Safety Board is looking for the cause of the crash.
One of the five victims, Trevor Cadigan, 26, had recently moved from Dallas to New York to start a journalism career. The suit filed by Nancy and Jerry Cadigan of Dallas accuses the company, Liberty Helicopters, of failing to ready passengers properly for the possibility of a crash.
All five passengers drowned -- deaths the suit says might have been prevented if they'd been able to free themselves from the tight safety harnesses that strapped them into their seats.The suit also says Liberty Helicopters didn't provide adequate maintenance on the aircraft to keep it from tipping over.
Other victims in the crash include Brian McDaniel, 26; Daniel Thompson, 34; Tristian Hill, 29; and Carla Vallejos-Blanco, 29, of Argentina.
Pilot Richard Vance, 33, freed himself from the helicopter. The lawsuit blames Vance for failing to keep control of the open-door helicopter and for not trying to save his passengers after entering the water.
A statement by the FAA said a focus of the investigation is on the safety belts.
"We are giving urgent attention to the use of harnesses specifically for aerial photography flights," according to the statement. "As a matter of overall safety awareness, we are preparing further communications and educational outreach to aerial photography operators and consumers on the use of these harnesses."
A joint statement from New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez and state lawmaker Carolyn Maloney said the crash is another tragic reminder that helicopter tourist flights pose significant public safety risks to the community.
"At minimum, these flights should be suspended until there can be an exhaustive review of the safety hazards of operating these flights in such a congested urban airspace," according to the statement. "Following this tragedy, we once again -- as we have many times before -- call on the FAA, the City and municipalities in New Jersey to ban helicopter flights over Manhattan and Brooklyn. Helicopter tourism flights are simply a bad fit for airspace above the most densely populated city in the U.S."
Liberty Helicopters said in a statement Monday, "We are focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and the NTSB investigations."