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Official: Bag may have hit fuel switch.

Byline: Jennifer Peltz and Michael Balsamo Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The pilot who survived a helicopter crash that killed his five passengers told authorities he believed a passenger's bag might have hit an emergency fuel shut-off switch in the moments before the chopper went down, a federal official told the AP on Monday.

The official was briefed on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly about it and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The National Transportation Safety Board later said it would look at the switch, the chopper's flotation devices and even the photos on passengers' cameras to figure out what caused the crash Sunday in New York City's East River.

NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said the agency hasn't spoken yet to the pilot but hopes to do so.

"Mayday, mayday, mayday," pilot Richard Vance said in an emergency radio call as the Eurocopter AS350 tour helicopter foundered Sunday night. "East River -- engine failure."

The chopper flipped over and quickly sank, killing a Texas firefighter, an Argentine woman, a young video journalist, a former basketball team assistant and another person on what authorities said was a charter flight to take photos.

The copter's six emergency floats did inflate, but Dinh-Zarr said investigators would look at whether there were any problems with the devices. The NTSB and other agencies involved in the probe also hope to recover the passengers' cameras and electronics "to capture a digital portrait of the last moments of this flight," she said.

No one answered an email Monday to Vance, 33, a licensed commercial pilot for seven years who's also licensed as a flight instructor. A possible phone number for him in Danbury, Connecticut, wasn't working.

A floating crane slowly raised the submerged helicopter to the surface Monday and towed it off to be examined, as Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said federal regulators should suspend flights by the helicopter's owner until the facts of the crash are known.

Witnesses to Sunday's crash said the helicopter was flying noisily, then suddenly dropped and quickly submerged. A bystander's video showed the helicopter land hard and then capsize in water about 50 feet deep.

The passengers who died included Dallas Fire-Rescue Officer Brian McDaniel, 26, and his high school friend Trevor Cadigan, 26, a journalist from Dallas who had recently moved to New York.

Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, was a tourist from Corrientes, Argentina, who had been in New York for a few days.

Tristan Hill, 29, was most recently working at a sightseeing tour company but had previously been a basketball operations assistant with the Westchester Knicks, a Development League affiliate of the New York Knicks.

The fifth victim was Daniel Thompson, 34, according to police.

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Title Annotation:Nation_
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Mar 13, 2018
Words:450
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