Five passengers were killed after an Airbus (fka Eurocopter) helicopter AS350 crashed into the East River in New York on Sunday, March 11. USA Today profiled the crash in the article, “Liberty Helicopters crashed 3 times in 11 years around New York City, twice with fatalities,” and turned to Partner Michael Slack for insight.
As the National Safety Transportation Board begins their investigation, one aspect they will look into is whether there was a mechanical failure aboard the aircraft. Emergency divers had to remove the passengers from tight harnesses while they were upside down in the water. Slack explained that if a 26-year-old firefighter trained to get out of tangled ropes or hoses couldn’t get out of the seat harness, it raises questions about the briefing for passengers before the flight and how easy the equipment is to use.
“You’ve got to figure the odds of that guy getting out are real good depending upon seating position,” Slack said. “There’s either some type of issue with the restraints or not opening the door soon enough so that they can get out. Once the water pressure is great enough, they won’t be able to open those doors.” Slack noted that pictures from the passengers show shoulder harnesses, but not the precise buckle or clasp that the manufacturer installed on this helicopter.
“Those things are supposed to have a quick-release, [passengers] are supposed to be briefed ahead of time,” he said.