The parents of a young man who died aboard a New York City helicopter tour on Sunday are suing the aircraft’s owner and operator.
An article by The Washington Post recounts the events, which took place earlier in the week:
Twenty-six-year old journalist Trevor Cardigan boarded a helicopter along with six other people. About twelve minutes into the tour, it began a rapid, fatal descent into the freezing waters of the East River, between Manhattan and Queens.
The helicopter, writes the Post, had just flown over the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge when it lost altitude. Video captured by Twitter user JJMagers shows the aircraft making a slow descent to the East River, rotors still spinning as it capsized moments after entering the water.
Land – Roosevelt Island – seems a quick swim away.
But the only survivor was the helicopter’s pilot, who freed himself from the submerged cockpit.
In their suit, Cardigan’s parents allege the aircraft’s operator and corporate owners made it ‘impossible’ for untrained passengers to free themselves in emergencies.
‘Because the ride was an open-door flight, passengers wore tight harnesses that are connected to a metal ring across their back and tethered to the floor,’ wrote Kristine Phillips of The Washington Post. ‘Removing the harness during emergency situations required a type of training that Cardigan and the other passengers didn’t have.’
Philips referenced a statement released by helicopter crash attorney Gary Robb, who’s taken up the Cardigan family’s case.
“The family is simply shocked and outraged that their son drowned to death in this manner in what was supposed to be a pleasurable sightseeing helicopter tour,” said Robb. “If this had been a normal closed-door flight with normal safety belts, it would have been easy for Trevor to have unbuckled himself and for him to swim to the surface.”
Adding onto that, Robb said: “You would have to be Houdini to escape in that situation. It was truly a death trap for him to be hanging upside down in frigid water temperature, tightly harnessed with the release inaccessible in the back and no advance training.”
Florida-based aviation expert Barbara Kaiser, quoted by the Post, said the same. According to Kaiser, extricating oneself from a submerged helicopter is difficult without following procedure. Even after properly removing communications equipment, trapped passengers would need a knife to cut through the harness and swim to safety.
“The whole process takes special training,” she said. “These people – the passengers – they never had a chance because they’d never taken any training.”
A federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board reports that pilot Richard Vance announced “mayday” and an engine failure moments before the helicopter crashed into the East River.
While the NTSB hasn’t published any official finding, Robb and the Cardigans suggested another possibility: the suit claims Vance “inadvertently or otherwise activated” the aircraft’s emergency fuel shutoff and “failed to properly activate” its skid floats.
The lawsuit doesn’t set a desired financial outcome.
In the meantime, Cardigan’s parents want operator FlyNYON ‘to cease and desist this terribly unsafe open-door flight operation.’
“It is their strongest desire that this should never happen again,” said Robb.