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NTSB: Helicopter that crashed into NYC river was too heavy

By Rande Iaboni, CNN
updated 9:40 PM EST, Thu December 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The helicopter crash in October 2011 killed two of five people aboard
  • A third person died later from injuries, the NTSB says
  • The NTSB says the chopper was over its weight limit
  • The pilot says the crash was due to an unanticipated "loss of tail rotor effectiveness"

New York (CNN) -- A helicopter that crashed into the East River, killing two of the five people aboard, was over its weight capacity when it went down in October 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released Thursday.

The initial aviation accident report from the NTSB did not specify the exact cause of the crash. However, it stated the weight of the helicopter at takeoff was over its capacity by more than 250 pounds.

The report said the Bell 206 chopper had a capacity of 3,200 pounds, based on the manufacturer's specifications. When the helicopter was weighed two days after the accident by a company that specializes in aircraft weight-and-balance services, that company said "the takeoff weight at the time of the accident was calculated to be 3,461.2 pounds."

It was reported at the time of the crash that the flight was to take friends visiting from abroad on a sightseeing flight around New York City. Shortly after takeoff, the helicopter, its pilot and his four passengers went down into the East River and sank in 35-feet-deep water. In addition to the two killed in the crash, a third passenger died about a month afterward from injuries suffered in the incident, the NTSB said.

The pilot Paul Dudley, 56, reported that he had calculated the total load at takeoff to be 1,131 pounds. However, the NTSB report cited a post-accident interview in which the front-seat passenger said Dudley did not ask for anyone's weight nor did he execute any paperwork, or perform any calculations before takeoff.

Dudley released a statement Thursday noting "several inconsistencies" in the NTSB report and claiming the cause of the crash was due to an unanticipated "loss of tail rotor effectiveness." The statement went on to mention Dudley's "unblemished" 28-year aviation record and said that he is still recovering and mourning the loss of his friends every day.

The final report from the NTSB is expected to be released within the next few months and it will officially state the probable cause of the crash, according to Keith Holloway, public affairs officer of the agency.

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