HOBOKEN, N.J. – Divers pulled a helicopter and four more bodies out of the murky Hudson River on Sunday in their search for victims, wreckage and explanations from a midair collision of a sightseeing helicopter and a small plane that killed nine people.
The dead from Saturday’s crash include three fathers and their three teenage sons. The private plane carried a family from Pennsylvania, and the helicopter held five Italian tourists celebrating a couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.
The plane approached the helicopter, which had just taken off for a 12-minute tour, from behind and clipped it with a wing, witnesses said. Both aircraft split apart.
The bodies of the plane’s pilot and an adult passenger remained missing, New York police spokesman Paul Browne said.
The collision happened in the same stretch of the Hudson where a US Airways jet landed safely seven months ago. It was the worst air disaster in New York City since a commercial jet crash in Queens killed 265 people in November 2001.
Divers suspended their search at about 6 p.m. Sunday and will resume this morning, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were reviewing flight data from the Teterboro Airport, where the plane took off on Saturday. The plane was not required to have a flight plan and did not file one, said NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman.
The plane was flying at about 1,100 feet at the time of the crash, she said. Below that altitude, planes in that part of the Hudson River corridor are to navigate visually. Above that, they need clearance from air traffic controllers.
The control tower at Teterboro handed off responsibility for the plane to the tower in Newark about a minute before the crash and told the pilot to contact Newark controllers, Hersman said. But the Newark officials never heard from the pilot.
One of the Italian victims was a husband celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary, a friend said. His wife had stayed behind because she was afraid of flying, but their 16-year-old son was in the helicopter.
The five tourists were from the Bologna, Italy, area: Michele Norelli, 51; his son Filippo Norelli, 16; Fabio Gallazzi, 49; his wife, Tiziana Pedroni, 44; and their son Giacomo Gallazzi, 15.
The helicopter company, Liberty Helicopters, released the name of the pilot in the crash: Jeremy Clarke, of Lanoka Harbor, N.J.
The plane’s pilot was 60-year-old Steven Altman, of Ambler, Pa., two law enforcement officials told the AP on the condition of anonymity because all the bodies have not yet been recovered or identified. Also in the plane were 49-year-old Daniel Altman, of Dresher, Pa.; and his 16-year-old son, Douglas, the officials said.