A witness to yesterday's helicopter crash in the East River that killed one and injured four others said the helicopter appeared to be in trouble before flipping over and plunging into the water at around 3:22 p.m. "It was already going up, when it spun around a couple times and flipped over with the propeller underwater and the nose facing Queens," Robert Dress tells the Times. Dress was watching the helicopters take off from the 34th Street Heliport with this 9-month-old son. "There was no reaction time at all; the thing went up and just came down. It's a tragedy."

One of the first at the scene was the deputy commissioner for the Emergency Management Office, who was driving nearby when he received the call. "I walked out on the helipad, and I saw two guys holding on the the helicopter skids," he said. A four-member NYPD counterterrorism unit was also nearby, and shed their gear before diving into the swift current to save who they could.

The four passengers onboard were all family friends of the pilot, Paul Dudley, who is the director of Linden Airport and an experienced pilot. Paul and Harriet Nicholson, a British couple from Portugal, Harriet's daughter Sonia Marria and friend Helen Tamaki were all inside Dudley's 1976 Bell 206 Jet Ranger. Marria, who was trapped inside the helicopter for 90 minutes, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mayor Bloomberg, who held a press conference at the scene, noted that Dudley reported issues with the helicopter and stated that he was turning around. The Star-Leger reports that the helicopter was certified by the FAA through 2013. The helicopter, which was mired in mud, has been removed and the NTSB is investigating the crash.

Dudley's wife told the AP, "I think he's OK. These were actually very dear friends of ours that were in the helicopter."