Lehigh Valley

Local photographer captures moments before deadly helicopter crash

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - It was a picture-perfect night to be soaring above Manhattan.

"They were really excited about taking these flights and it was a beautiful evening," said Eric Adams, a professional photographer from Allentown. 

Adams was on the same group photo-helicopter tour Sunday night as the chopper that crashed into the East River, killing all five passengers on board.

"There's no way they could have known that anything horrible would have happened," said Adams.

Adams says he has taken several flights with the company FlyNYON in the past. Each tour starts with a safety briefing as there are no doors on the choppers and passengers are harnessed to the aircraft.

"You're anchored in the middle of your back with a carabiner," said Adams.

Adams says three helicopters took off at the same time, 6:45 p.m., when the sunset was just right.

Adams' chopper and the one that would later come down circled around the Statue of Liberty together. He even captured a photo before the helicopters went their separate ways.

"They continued up the East River while we stayed in Lower Manhattan," said Adams.

At some point the second helicopter crashed. Adams says unbeknownst to him and his fellow passengers, his pilot was instructed to help search for the fallen chopper.

"We just thought we were taking a different route and getting different angles of the city," said Adams.

It wasn't until hours after landing that Adams learned what happened. Five people were killed and the pilot, who wasn't harnessed to the helicopter, was the only one to survive.

"It must have been horrible for them and virtually impossible to extricate themselves from those harnesses to get out and try to save their lives," says Adams. 

Adams says he's devastated for the victims and their families.

"Even though you didn't know them and you were only friends for the briefest amount of time, you were still with them."

The helicopter was lifted from the water Monday afternoon and is being examined by experts from the National Transportation Safety Board to try to determine what caused the crash.

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