A woman was killed this afternoon after a tourist helicopter on a sightseeing tour sputtered out of control and crashed into the East River shortly after taking off and attempting to land, authorities said.
Four people, including the pilot, survived, police said.
The passengers -- all tourists from England -- were on a sightseeing tour.
Two survivors could be seen clinging from the chopper's landing gear as divers swam towards them, while a third was spotted trying to swim to shore.
Two women were pulled out and taken to Bellevue Hospital. One of the women was taken to the hospital in cardiac arrest.
A third passenger, a man, was taken to NYU Hospital.
All three are in critical condition.
A fourth person, also a man, was treated on the pier.
The woman who died, a passenger, had been trapped in the underwater wreckage.
The Bell 206 Jet Ranger crashed at 3:22 p.m. as it tried to land and sank to the bottom upside down within seconds about 20 feet from the East 34th Street Heliport.
The chopper was only about 25 feet in the air when it crashed.
"I saw the helicopter in the water and it sank in seconds," said witness Jill Rivera. The private chopper is owned by Paul Dudley, who was piloting the chopper when it crashed, sources told The Post.
Dudley, who has over 20 years experience as a helicopter pilot, is also the director of the Linden Municipal Airport in New Jersey.
The Bell 206 is one of the world's most popular choppers and used by local TV stations and private companies.
"I saw the helicopter going towards the ramp and it seemed to be struggling and it was leaning forward, too forward," said Christopher Laukans, 32, who was leaving a dentist's office at the time.
"Then it started spinning about three to four times, and then it went in the water."
Carlos Acevedo, 40, who was in a nearby parking lot with his wife, said the chopper was trying to land on the helipad when it crashed. "It looked like the pilot was struggling," he said.
"It sank fast, to me it seemed like seconds. It's like the water sucked it in," added witness Luis Reyes, 23, a dog walker. "There were two guys on the outside holding on screaming, 'Help! Help!' "
The cause of the accident remains under investigation.
Coast Guard spokesman Erik Swanson said it sent rescue boats to the scene shortly after the accident.
Republished with permission of The New York Post