UPDATE : An Italian woman who refused to take the fateful helicopter trip that killed her husband, son and a family vacationing with them is demanding a criminal investigation into what happened over the Hudson River on Saturday, an Italian media organization is reporting.
“I want to know everything, I want there to be a full investigation,” a devastated Silvia Rigamonti (in photo) told Corriere della Sera after she returned home from what had been a 25th anniversary trip to New York. “It’s not possible that such things should happen,” she said.
Prosecutors in Italy also want to know why a small private plane carrying three people out of Teterboro and the Liberty Tours helicopter taking Rigamonti’s husband, son and friends for an aerial tour ended up that close together in the first place. They blamed American authorities for placing greed for tourism dollars over safety.
Helicopter pilot Jeremy Clark, 33, was among nine killed in the crash. His was one of seven bodies that authorities have recovered so far in the collision, which killed nine, along with the small plane’s fuselage and parts of the helicopter. The other two bodies are believed trapped in the plane. The tour company called Clark “skilled, professional instrument-rated commercial pilot with more than 3,100 total hours flying helicopters.”
A pilot refueling on the ground at Liberty’s West Side Highway heliport in midtown saw the plane approaching the helicopter and tried to radio an alert to both pilots, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “There was no response,” National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman said.
The helicopter trip was an anniversary gift to Michele and Silvia Rigamonti during what was her first visit to New York, her eldest son told the Italian newspaper/magazine Corriere della Sera. They and their friends were to return in a few days, it says.
A tale just as tragic involved the plane, which was bound for Ocean City carrying two brothers who ran a Pennsylvania real estate empire and the 15-year-old son of one.
The NTSB identified the pilot and owner of the plane as Steven Altman, 60, of Ambler, Pa. He had flown to Teterboro Airport and picked up two passengers — identified as his brother, Daniel, 49, and Daniel’s 15-year-old son, Brett — for a ride to Ocean City in his Piper Saratoga, a single-engine plane craft to the one in which John F. Kennedy Jr. was killed 10 years ago.
The five tourists were from the Bologna, Italy, area: 51-year-old Michele Norelli, 16-year-old Filippo Norelli, 49-year-old Fabio Galazzi, 15-year-old Giacomo Gallazi and 44-year-old Tiziana Pedroni.
(Photo, ABOVE, of Sylvia Rigamonti and LEFT, of a
Norelli family member, courtesy of
Corriere della Sera
Accounts say their copter had lifted off just before noon from the West Side Highway in midtown for a bird’s-eye view of the Statue of Liberty and other area attractions. The copter headed west, then turned south toward Jersey City, where it was struck from underneath by the southbound Piper, authorities and witnesses said.
Duane Szatkowski was running along the Hoboken waterfront when he heard “what sounded like firecrackers.” He said he ran into a fellow jogger who told him:
“It looked like the helicopter was going south on the Hudson and the plane came up on an angle. One of the wings got caught in the propellers and got ripped right off….”
“The helicopter hit the water the hardest. As the plane veered off, the helicopter went straight down,” the witness told Szatkowski, 36, a recruiter for a big four accounting firm.
Some witnesses said they saw propeller parts flying through the air, some of which fell on land, following the crash.
“I saw the splash and immediately ran out,” Paulie Nixon Muttilo, of Trinity Lounge and Restaurant, told CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM.
“When I got across the street one of my servers and a passerby both said they heard a boom and then saw the plane hit water,” said Muttilo, whose bar is at the corner of Third Street and Frank Sinatra Drive. “From there I just saw an immediate effort underway….The Circle Line was the first to the scene and other boats started arriving, as well as the NYPD and helicopters.”
Szatkowsk told CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM he was running near Maxwell Park when he heard “what sounded like firecrackers.”
He turned around and headed south toward the sound when he came face-to-face with a woman who “had the look of death.” She said, “A plane just collided with a helicopter.”
He sprinted to the Sinatra Park soccer field and looked into the water.
“The first thing I noticed was that there was no debris or wreckage visible on the surface,” he said. “There was a New York Waterways ferry, a water taxi, a recreational boast and kayakers all circling around” about 150 yards from the shoreline, he said.
“It looked like nothing had happened there,” Szatkowski said. “That was pretty scary.”
Within 10 minutes, he said, NYPD divers were in the water.
Current story: Current, murky Hudson make recovery difficult
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