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Second woman dies from Manhattan chopper crash

October 12, 2011 |  5:35 pm

 Chopper crash A second person has died from injuries suffered in the crash of a helicopter that plunged into the East River off of Midtown Manhattan on Oct. 4. The chopper had been carrying a party of tourists celebrating a woman's 40th birthday.

Helen Tamaki, who lived in Australia with her partner, Sonia Marra, had been hospitalized in critical condition since being pulled from the water unconscious minutes after the aircraft crashed just after liftoff. Marra, who was celebrating her birthday, was trapped in the chopper when it sank; she died at the scene. Tamaki, who was 43, died Tuesday evening, officials at New York's Bellevue Hospital said.

Marra's mother, Harriet Nicholson, remains hospitalized, according to local media reports; Marra's stepfather and the helicopter pilot, a family friend, escaped with minor injuries.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Witnesses said the helicopter spun wildly and barely got off the ground before landing upside-down in the river off a helipad on the river's edge, on East 34th Street in Manhattan.

The pilot, Paul Dudley, has told the National Transportation Safety Board that the helicopter's nose swung to the left as he lifted off and that he was unable to regain control as he tried to steer the aircraft back to the heliport.

In a preliminary report, investigators said that the Bell 206 had just undergone an annual inspection, during which mechanics disassemble much of the aircraft to check for rust and corrosion. A final report is not expected for months.

-- Tina Susman in New York

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Photo: Inspectors look at the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed into the East River off Manhattan. Credit: NTSB

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