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East River helicopter crash lawsuit filed on behalf of victim's family

Five passengers were killed after the helicopter plummeted into the East River.

A photo posted to Instagram on March 11 by

A photo posted to Instagram on March 11 by Trevor Cadigan. Brian McDaniel, his friend, was sitting behind him, giving a thumbs-up. Photo Credit: Instagram / Trevor Cadigan

The first lawsuit in the East River helicopter crash has been filed on behalf of the family of one of the five passengers killed.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court, Kansas City aviation lawyer Gary Robb sued Liberty Helicopters and its pilot Richard Vance, as well as helicopter tour company FlyNYON for negligence in Sunday’s crash, on behalf of Nancy and Jerry Cadigan — parents of passenger Trevor Cadigan, 26, of Manhattan.

Robb, a noted aviation attorney, said in a statement the Cadigan family was “simply shocked and outraged that their son drowned in this manner in what was supposed to be a pleasurable sightseeing helicopter tour.” Robb added there was “no reasonable prospect” that Trevor could have extricated himself from the helicopter safety harness when the aircraft ditched in the river.

In a statement, Robb called the helicopter a “death trap,” adding that Cadigan “would have to be a Houdini to escape the situation.”

The harness system used in the American Eurocopter Corp. aircraft has come under scrutiny as firefighters said they had to cut the belt system to extract the passengers from the helicopter after it overturned in the river. All five passengers drowned.

A spokesman for FlyNYON said, “We are deeply saddened by the loss suffered by the family of Trevor Cadigan and will continue to work closely with the government authorities in their investigation of the accident.”

Officials at Liberty Helicopters didn’t return calls and email messages for comment Wednesday.

The AS350B2 model aircraft took off from Kearny, New Jersey, for a sunset tourist photography flight at 6:56 p.m., according to flight data information provided by Flightradar24, a company that provides live flight information about aircraft all over the world.

A partial flight path shown on the company’s website depicted the helicopter at about 375 feet and tracked it up the East River as it climbed to about 1,350 feet at a point just south of Roosevelt Island.

The flight path ends at that point because, according to Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for Flightradar24, receiving stations that normally triangulate the aircraft’s transponder were likely blocked from receiving data by buildings in the area.

Despite there not being enough receivers getting a signal from the helicopter, it was still able to be tracked for altitude changes, Petchenik explained. The helicopter continued to climb to about 1,800 feet, apparently still over the East River, when it started to descend. The flight is shown to have ended at 7:06 p.m., according to Flightradar24. Newsday was referred to the radar tracking company by the Federal Aviation Administration.

It is unclear from the flight line imagery when the helicopter suddenly experienced trouble. Near the end of the flight, Vance was heard radioing, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!” to air traffic controllers at LaGuardia Airport. Vance then said he had engine trouble. Amateur video showed the helicopter turning in an easterly direction as it crashed into the East River.

After Vance was rescued by a passing tugboat, he told police that a passenger strap had become intertwined with either the emergency fuel shut-off lever or the main fuel supply lever, cutting off the flow of fuel, a law enforcement official said.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Administration have been going over the heavily damaged helicopter at special facility at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, the NTSB said it had recovered the flight data recording system from the helicopter, as well as its GoPro camera and other devices.

As part of the investigation, the NTSB was taking apart the helicopter’s engine and having “survival factors investigators” examine the passenger restraint system.

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