Helicopter crash pilot could have saved British tourist 'with extra 10 seconds'

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Helicopter crash pilot could have saved British tourist 'with an extra 10 seconds'The helicopter is hoisted from the East River. Photo: PA


The pilot of the helicopter that crashed into New York's East River has said he just needed 10 more seconds to save British tourist Sonia Marra, who died in the accident.

Paul Dudley, 56, told WABC-TV how he desperately tried to save the four other tourists on board his aircraft, and repeatedly dived under the surface in attempts to open the jammed door.

Although he managed to save two people, while a third swam to safety, he couldn't get Sonia - who took the trip to celebrate her 40th birthday - out of the helicopter.

He told WABC-TV reporter Shannon Sohn: 'If I had had ten more seconds I could have saved her.'

Sonia's partner Helen Tamaki, 43 - who had organised the flight - and mother Harriet Nicholson, 60, are in a critical condition at Bellevue Hospital. Sonia's stepfather, Paul Nicholson, who was celebrating his 71st birthday, escaped unharmed.

The helicopter crashed just seconds after take-off, only reaching 25ft before plummeting upside down into the murky water, thought to be around 66F.

Father-of-three Paul Dudley has been described by Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka as an 'accomplished pilot', and owns Linden Airport Services, the company that manages the Linden municipal airport under a 20-year contract with the city.

According to the Daily Mail, his lawyer Robert Hantman told Newsday Dudley was 'in shock and full of regret for what happened', adding that his chopper had a 'full maintenance check' by a 'reputable mechanic' beforehand.

Investigators believe the aircraft had lost part of its rotor blade, but it is unclear whether this caused the crash.

Rescuers took 90 minutes to recover the body of Miss Marra, who was sitting in the back seat and was not wearing a seatbelt.

She had been living in Newtown, Sydney, where she was described as a 'well-known personality'.