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NZealander dies following NYC river chopper crash

Source : AP
Last Updated: Fri, Oct 14, 2011 00:30 hrs

A New Zealand woman who was a long-time partner of a woman killed when a helicopter carrying them on a birthday celebration crashed into the East River has also died from her injuries, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Helen Tamaki, a citizen of New Zealand who lived in Sydney, was pronounced dead Tuesday night, Bellevue Hospital Center spokeswoman Francis Arscott said. The cause of her death was "complications of near drowning," medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

The Oct. 4 crash also killed Tamaki's partner, Sonia Marra, a British citizen living in Australia who was celebrating her 40th birthday in the city with her mother, her stepfather, Tamaki and the pilot, a family friend. Besides Tamaki, another passenger was seriously injured, though the person's injuries haven't been disclosed. The pilot and the fourth passenger were unharmed.

Accident investigators said in a report released Wednesday that the helicopter had been in the shop just two days before the fatal flight.

Mechanics had just wrapped up their annual inspection of the Bell 206 helicopter on Oct. 2, the National Transportation Safety Board said in the preliminary report.

During an annual inspection, mechanics take much of an aircraft apart, check for corrosion and replace worn parts. The work can take several weeks.

In the past, the Federal Aviation Administration has warned pilots to be alert for mechanical problems immediately after maintenance. NTSB records show at least 10 small aircraft have crashed on the first flight after their annual inspections since 1999.

Helicopter pilot Paul Dudley told the NTSB he had just taken off from Manhattan's East 34th Street Heliport, not far from the United Nations headquarters, and was up to 50 feet (15 meters) above the river when the nose of the helicopter swung unexpectedly to the left.

He told investigators that when he tried to turn right to return to the heliport, the aircraft went out of control.

Three-fourths of one main rotor blade broke off when the helicopter hit the water, the report said.

Investigators had previously said they were unsure if the blade broke before or after the impact. They have not found the missing piece, according to the report.

The NTSB report doesn't give the cause of the accident. That determination could take months.

The helicopter was built in 1976 and had flown 11,580 hours, the report said. It had a 400-horsepower Rolls-Royce engine.

The passengers were all friends of Dudley, an experienced pilot who also manages the Linden, New Jersey, airport. He has 2,287 hours of flying experience, including 1,500 hours in helicopters and 420 hours in Bell 206es, according to the NTSB report.

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Associated Press writer Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.




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