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Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Sunday, 9 August 2009 11:41 UK

Nine killed in New York air crash

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Eyewitnesses describe Hudson River crash

Nine people have been killed after a helicopter carrying tourists and a light aircraft collided near New York City and crashed into the Hudson River.

The collision occurred between Hoboken, in New Jersey, and Manhattan, just across the river, on Saturday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said six people - one pilot and five Italian tourists - were on the helicopter. Three people including a child were on the plane.

Three bodies have been found and divers were returning to the area on Sunday.

Mr Bloomberg said on Saturday that the emergency operation had changed from a rescue to a recovery mission and that the incident was "not going to have a happy ending".

Map

He said it appeared the plane had flown into the rear of the helicopter, but stressed that an investigation needed to be carried out.

He said rescue workers had located some wreckage, probably of the helicopter, but that due to the limited visibility 30ft under the water it had not been possible to confirm which of the aircraft it was.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Debbie Hersman said that a helicopter pilot on the ground had seen the plane approaching the helicopter.

"He radioed the accident helicopter and told him: 'One-lima-hotel. You have a fixed-wing behind you.' There was no response from the pilot," she said.

The pilot on the ground then saw the plane's right wing strike the helicopter and both aircraft "descended into the Hudson River", she added.

Falling debris

Television footage showed rescue craft heading to the site, about level with Manhattan's West 14th Street, from both sides of the Hudson River after the incident happened.

"We heard first a huge crash, a boom almost," said Melissa Green, who was having lunch on the New York bank of the river at the time.

We saw the helicopter propellers fly all over
Katie Tanski
Witness

"We turned around and saw these two mushroom splashes," she told the Associated Press news agency.

Other witnesses described seeing debris - including the plane's wing - falling into the water.

On the river front at Hoboken, people scattered as debris landed. An aircraft wheel fell on to a street, AP reported.

"We saw the helicopter propellers fly all over," said Hoboken resident Katie Tanski.

The helicopter was operated by Liberty Helicopters, a sightseeing company that flies tourists around sites such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The light plane took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and was heading to Ocean City in the same state, an aviation official said.

The weather at the time of the collision, noon local time (1600 GMT) on Saturday, was said to be clear and mild.

In January, a passenger plane with 155 people aboard ditched into the Hudson River without loss of life, after apparently hitting a flock of geese.



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