Nine die as plane and helicopter collide over New York City

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Nine people died when a sightseeing helicopter and a small aeroplane collided over New York's Hudson River yesterday, killing all on board.

In the helicopter were five Italian tourists and the pilot. The plane was carrying three people, said New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

"This has changed from a rescue to a recovery mission," he said, after the first two bodies had been recovered, adding that the crash had been "not survivable". An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board was under way, he said.

Thousands of tourists saw the accident, many describing how the low-flying plane's wing and the helicopter's rotor blades sheared away on impact, scattering debris across the river and sending people on the New Jersey shoreline at Hoboken running for cover. Most of the wreckage falling over the water sank quickly.

The crash happened just after noon local time in excellent weather conditions, in an area that becomes busy with air traffic on clear days, as tourists take sightseeing flights. The plane, a Piper PA-32, had left Teterboro airport in New Jersey heading for Ocean City, New Jersey.

The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, was owned by Liberty Tours, which runs excursions around the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattan. It had just taken off from a heliport on Manhattan's West Side.

The crash happened just south of the stretch of the Hudson in which a US Airways plane that hit a flock of birds crash-landed in January. All 155 people aboard survived.