A pilot has walked away from a helicopter crash in New York City that killed five passengers.
The aircraft, which is owned by Liberty Helicopters, crashed into the East River off Upper Manhattan just after 7pm on Sunday night, witnesses said.
Footage of the accident shows the helicopter descending rapidly before hitting the water and turning on its side.
The pilot apparently emerged shortly after impact, but there was no immediate sign of any of the passengers.
New York Fire Department commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said rescue teams had to cut tightly harnessed passengers from their seats, the New York Times reported.
“It was a great tragedy that we had here,” Commissioner Nigro said.
New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said the helicopter had been flying as a private charter to take photos.
In its brochure, New Jersey-based Liberty Helicopters says it is the only company permitted to fly within 1000 feet of the Statue of Liberty on all tours, and its pilots have been “flying safely” for 28 years.
According to the NY Times, Kaderia Melchon had been walking in Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when she saw the incident occur, and initially thought the red aircraft to be an FD helicopter.
Another witness, Xinran Jiang of Roosevelt Island, told the Times the helicopter immediately stood out from the myriad of choppers that fly over East River all the time.
“It almost looked like it was landing,” said Ms Jiang, who saw the crash from her bedroom window with her husband.
“It wasn’t moving fast. We were curious where it was going to land. Then the next minute, it was diving into the river.”
[UPDATED 13 MARCH 2018]