Skip to main content

Divers find plane, 8th body in Hudson River

  • Story Highlights
  • Body found Monday in submerged wreckage of plane
  • Eight bodies now located after weekend plane-helicopter collision; one missing
  • Wife of Italian victim skipped helicopter flight to go shopping, son tells Italian media
  • Helicopter wreckage recovered Sunday
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Divers found an eighth body Monday from the weekend collision of two aircraft over the Hudson River, leaving only one victim unaccounted for.

First responders gather on a pier after a plane and helicopter collided Saturday over the Hudson River.

Silvia Rigamonti, wife of one of the victims, walks with her son Davide Norelli in Bologna, Italy, on Monday.

The man's body was found inside the submerged Piper Saratoga PA-32 fixed-wing plane that was carrying three people when it collided Saturday with a tourist helicopter carrying six people, police said.

It was not immediately possible to remove the body, police said.

The plane wreckage and the body were found on a day in which police divers worked in water made treacherous by poor visibility and strong currents.

All six bodies of the people who were aboard the helicopter were pulled from water up to 50 feet deep over the weekend. Another body from among the three people who were aboard the private plane was found Saturday floating near Pier 40.

Recovery operations were suspended late Monday afternoon and were to resume Tuesday morning, when the Army Corps of Engineers plans to lift the plane, police spokesman Paul Browne said.

The victims aboard the helicopter included five tourists from Bologna, Italy, part of a group of 10 Bologna-area residents who were in New York to help a couple celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, said Giovanni Castellaneta, Italy's ambassador to the United States. See where the collision occurred »

The celebrating husband and one of the couple's sons were killed in the crash, but the wife skipped the sightseeing flight to go shopping, another son told Italian news media.

The victims from Bologna were Michele Norelli, 51; Norelli's son Filippo Norelli, 16; Fabio Gallazzi, 49; Gallazzi's wife, Tiziana Pedroni, 44; and Gallazzi's son, Giacomo Gallazzi, 15.

Michele Norelli's wife, Silvia Rigamonti, decided to visit New York stores instead of seeing its sights from above, the couple's eldest son, Davide Norelli, told Italian media.

The Norellis were ecstatic to be spending their anniversary in New York, Davide Norelli told Stampa newspaper in Turin, Italy.

"They used to talk about their trip at dinner with enthusiasm, of their silver anniversary and how they were going to celebrate it together. My aunt gave them the trip as a gift," the paper quotes Davide Norelli saying.

Davide Norelli, 23, also told Italian media that when he saw news of the crash on Saturday, he called his mother and was relieved at first because she answered. Then came the news that his father and brother died, which he had to relay to his 92-year-old paternal grandmother.

The pilot of the helicopter -- a Eurocopter AS350 -- was Jeremy Clarke, 32. He had worked for Liberty Helicopter Sightseeing Tours for about 1½ years and had logged 2,700 helicopter flight hours, Hersman said.

Killed aboard the plane were the owner and pilot, Steven Altman, 60, of Ambler, Pennsylvania; his brother, Daniel Altman, 49, of Dresher, Pennsylvania; and Daniel Altman's 16-year-old son, Douglas.

The National Transportation Safety Board has begun to reconstruct what happened.

The Piper took off from a Philadelphia-area airfield Saturday morning and landed at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport before taking off again, this time bound for Ocean City, New Jersey. Video Watch why investigators are looking at the airspace »

The Piper pilot spoke after takeoff with the Teterboro tower, which handed him off electronically to the Newark tower, NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman told reporters. But the pilot never contacted the Newark tower, she said.

Controllers lost contact with the plane at 11:53 a.m., when it was at an altitude of about 1,100 feet, Hersman said. Video Watch why investigators are looking at the airspace »

The helicopter was taking the five Italians on a 12-minute sightseeing tour around New York and had taken off from a heliport in midtown Manhattan shortly before the crash, Hersman said.

Hersman called the area "very complex airspace" near three major airports and a variety of other general aviation facilities.

In an effort to determine just how complex, the Federal Aviation Administration found that, in each of the eight days prior to the crash, an average of 225 aircraft operated at or below 1,100 feet within a 3-mile radius of the accident site, she said. Below that altitude, aircraft can operate under visual flight regulations.

The wreckage of the helicopter was pulled up Sunday, nearly intact, Hersman said on CNN's "American Morning" on Monday. Video Watch the NTSB official discuss the accident »

Castellaneta said he had asked New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help speed the inquiry into what happened.

Bloomberg, who is a pilot, likened the crowded air corridor where the accident happened to a highway.

"Nobody is ever going to make every road perfectly safe or every trip in your automobile, and the same thing is true when you fly," he said.

He added, "Nothing we can say will bring them back, but our prayers are with them."

Investigators will focus on radio communications along the air corridor at the time of the crash and will examine any images contributed by the public.

Neither aircraft was required to carry electronic data recorders -- often referred to as "black boxes" -- that record cockpit voices and flight information on larger planes. But electronic navigational devices on board might retain information that could help investigators, Hersman said.

Liberty Helicopter Sightseeing Tours, since 1995, has had eight accidents and one "incident," after which the NTSB made a number of safety recommendations, Hersman said.

"I think the fact that we are here today shows there is a lot of work that still needs to be done," she said.

Saturday's crash was the company's first involving fatalities.

Marcia Horowitz, a spokeswoman for the tour operator, said Liberty executives were working with investigators.

"The company is focusing its efforts on cooperating with the NTSB and giving as much information as it can," Horowitz said. "At this time, their priority is to help with the family of their pilot and, of course, the families that were involved in the accident."

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Mary Snow and Hada Messia contributed to this report.

All About Hudson RiverAccidents and DisastersU.S. National Transportation Safety Board

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print