WNBC in New York interviewed Partners Michael Slack and Ladd Sanger on the deadly safety mechanics involved in the Liberty Helicopter tour crash in the East River, which killed five passengers on board when they were unable to escape from their harnesses.
A simulation training video demonstrated the complicated, multi-point harness like the one used in an open-door helicopter tour. The complicated harness coupled with the upside down position of the helicopter as it was submerged in water was disorienting to the passengers who would have needed to use a blade to cut themselves loose. Slack points out that the harnesses alone raise a glaring red flag, especially since victim Brian McDaniel, a Dallas firefighter who was trained to untangle himself in high-pressure situations was not able to remove the harness.
According to Sanger, “When you have a situation where the helicopter is upside down in the water, it would be virtually impossible for those people to untangle themselves, and these kinds of harnesses should never be used on multiple passengers,” he said. “That’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible and it shouldn’t have happened.”
Also alarming are the comments from the pilot that the fuel shut-off lever may have been accidentally triggered by a bag, according to a law enforcement official. “If the bag could hit the emergency cut-off valve, that’s not a good combination and the NTSB needs to study that,” said Slack.