Pilot error blamed for NY crash

By Abby Gillies

A helicopter crash into New York's East River that killed three people including Kiwi Helen Tamaki has been blamed on pilot error.

The 43-year-old New Zealander died from injuries sustained in the 2011 crash.

Her Australian partner Sonia Marra and Ms Marra's mother Harriet Nicholson died in the river, while her stepfather, Paul Nicholson, and the pilot Paul Dudley survived.

A report released by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today found the helicopter was overloaded and the the pilot failed to pull the helicopter out of an uncontrolled spin, the Herald Sun reported.

Mr Dudley, a family friend of the couple, refuted the finding.

On the day of the crash he had expected only two passengers for the flight, which was part of a 40th birthday celebration in the city for Ms Marra, but four turned up and he went ahead, said the report.

Investigators estimated the helicopter was between 12.7kg and 118.4kg overweight.

"The investigation determined that the helicopter was loaded to an overweight condition, likely because the pilot did not anticipate having two additional passengers onboard the helicopter and because he did not perform weight-and-balance calculations.

"The front-seat passenger stated in a postaccident interview that the pilot did not ask for anyone's weight or perform any calculations before takeoff," it is reported saying.

Witnesses described the helicopter as descending in an "uncontrolled spin" before hitting the water, said the report.

Mr Dudley refuted the determination.

"We disagree with their assertions and guesstimates. In 30 years of flying, I never scratched the paint on an aircraft.

"I take it very seriously. I am still mourning the loss of my three friends," he told the Wall Street Journal.

At the time of the crash, the Tamaki family thanked Mr Dudley for his actions.

"This was a tragic accident and we are grateful for the prompt action and bravery of the pilot, Paul Dudley, who recovered Helen and Harriet from the scene," said a family statement.


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