Plane and helicopter collide near Hudson river

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The Independent US

A small plane carrying three people collided with a tour helicopter carrying about a half-dozen people over the Hudson River today, sending debris into the river and onto the New Jersey waterfront. New York City fire department officials on the scene said it appeared there were fatalities.

The accident happened just after noon (1600 GMT) between Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey, on a clear clear summer day. The Coast Guard said one person had been rescued.

The plane, a Piper PA-32, took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, and the helicopter was a Eurocopter AS 350 owned by Liberty Tours, a sightseeing and charter company, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The plane was headed to Ocean City, New Jersey, with three people aboard, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said. The helicopter had just taken off from a heliport on Manhattan's west side and it was believed to be carrying five passengers and one crew member, he said.

Emergency crews were on both sides of the river and police divers were going into the water.

People who saw the crash and its aftermath described the two aircraft colliding not far from the Hoboken shoreline, and said the impact sheared off the plane's wing.

"There was a loud pop, almost like a car backfire," said Buzz Nahas, who saw the crash from Hoboken. "The helicopter dropped like a rock."

Katie Tanski, of Hoboken, heard the noise of the collision, looked up and saw chaos in the air.

"We saw the helicopter propellers fly all over," she said. Some pieces of the wreckage fell on land, sending Tanski and others scurrying for cover.

On the New York City side of the river, Melissa Green, 33, and her husband were having lunch in a park along the Hudson when they heard the collision.

"We heard first a huge crash, a boom almost. We turned around and saw these two mushroom splashes," Green said. "What was really weird is there was no wreckage, nothing."

"I hope they find the people, but I don't know. They just disappeared," Green said.

Seven months ago, the same river was the scene of a spectacular aircraft accident that resulted in no loss of life. In January, a US Airways flight taking off from LaGuardia Airport slammed into a flock of birds and lost power in both engines. The plane crash-landed in the Hudson River, and all 155 people on board were pulled to safety.

A person who answered the phone at a Liberty Tours office declined to comment on the accident, but said the company would be releasing a statement. The company runs sightseeing excursions around the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattan at costs ranging from $130 to about $1,000.

Two years ago, a Liberty helicopter fell 500 feet from the sky during a sightseeing trip. The pilot was credited with safely landing the chopper in the Hudson and helping evacuate her seven passengers.

In 1997, a rotor on one of its sightseeing helicopters clipped a Manhattan building, forcing an emergency landing. No one was hurt.

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