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Investigation into New York helicopter tragedy

An investigation is now underway into the causes of a helicopter crash in New York City on October 5, which killed 40-year old British woman Sonia Marra and has left two others in a critical condition, including her Algarve-based mother.

The crash occurred seconds after the privately owned Bell 206 helicopter took off carrying Sonia Marra and Helen Tamaki and her mother and step-father, Harriet and Paul Nicholson, who live near Olhão.

The trip had been organised by Helen Tamaki as part of 40th birthday celebrations for Sonia Marra, but seconds after take-off the helicopter was seen to spin out of control and land in the East River close to the heliport on East 34th Street.

Sonia Marra was pronounced dead at the scene after a 90-minute search for her body.

Helen Tamaki and Harriet Nicholson were still in a critical condition as the Algarve Resident went to press on Wednesday.

Paul Nicholson was discharged from hospital after sustaining minor injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US has launched an investigation into the crash and as yet investigators have “not found any metal particles on a magnetic monitoring device inside the helicopter’s engine that could have indicated damage” said Mark Rosekind of the (NTSB).

He added that the lack of metal particles and no sign of a rupture in the engine gave “a good indication there was no engine failure at the time of the accident”.

Robert Hantman, the lawyer for pilot Paul Dudley, said: “He mentioned they had taken off and then he had some mechanical problems. He decided to land. Before he could land, the helicopter went out of control.”

He added that Paul Dudley managed to free himself from the sinking helicopter before he pulled out Helen Tamaki and Paul Nicholson.

Police Lieutenant Larry Serras who took part in the rescue operation told press: “There were two women floating unconscious near the wreckage who could do nothing to help themselves.  One woman had a severe head wound and they were face down.  I was trying to concentrate on the woman.

“(Paul Dudley) was yelling to us that there was an additional person trapped inside the helicopter.  By the time we arrived the helicopter was under. I stood on it for a brief second before it slipped away from under me.”

On October 8, Paul Nicholson, a regular supporter of the Olhanense Expat Supporters Group, told Chris Wright from the group that his wife Harriet had opened her eyes but was still in a coma.

He added that he could not speak too highly of the support that he had received from the Mayor’s office and the NYPD. D.S.