Victim Released From Hospital; Heroic Pilots; Crash Video Turns
A number of developments in last week's peculiar dual helicopter
crashes in New York City bring welcome news to both the families of
victims and to investigators.
The last victim of the first crash to remain hospitalized, Karen
Butler of Chelmsford, Essex, England, was released from Bellevue
Hospital and headed home to continue her recovery. In a statement
to the press, the family praised the doctors and staff at Bellevue,
who at one point induced a coma in Mrs. Butler to assist her
recovery, and asked the press to respect their privacy.
She and her husband had boarded the Bell helicopter for a
sightseeing tour of the city, along with other tourists from
Australia and France. She was the only one seriously injured in the
mishap. A non-swimmer, she was pinned between the fuselage and a
pontoon, until pulled free by pilot Yossi Benbassat.
The second crash, a Sikorsky S-76 bringing the top executives of
giant credit card bank MBNA back to Wilmington, Delaware from a New
York business meeting, also left one person seriously injured.
Pilot Mark Schaberg was still in Bellevue, slowly recovering after
damaging his lungs by water inhalation. He also suffered other,
less life-threatening injuries in the crash. The MBNA executive
survivors gave a great deal of credit for his survival to the
chopper's other pilot, Blair Payton, who after escaping himself
went back to the overturned, sinking machine to free the injured
Schaberg, and then held him and kept his head out of the water till
The MBNA executives were the very top level of the company,
including CEO Bruce Hammonds and several other "bio in the annual
report" names. Most of them have incomes in the millions to the
tens of millions, but those who have spoken to the press have
humbly expressed great gratitude to the emergency services and
ordinary people of New York who saved them. (At least three of them
were rescued by the civilians on the boat Half Moon). (file
Corporate Counsel Louis J. Freeh (Yes, THAT Louie Freeh, the
former judge and FBI Director) has asked for a meeting with Mayor
Bloomberg to see if the company can do something to express its
gratitude. (How about 9% interest for New Yorkers, Lou? Eh, we
didn't think you'd be that grateful but it was worth a try). Freeh
was one of the company's few top execs that wasn't on the ill-fated
Investigators are buoyed not only by the recovery of the
wreckage of the two helicopters and the preservation of the
physical evidence there, but also by the discovery of a videotape
showing the entire short flight of the first helicopter.
Small helicopters are not required to carry digital flight data
recorders or cockpit voice recorders, so the video, taken by a
Department of Transportation surveillance camera, will provide
measurable, quantifiable information that is available through no
other source. It reportedly shows the tourist helicopter taking
off, veering left and plunging into the river.
The discovery of this video has led to a search for
possible video of the second helicopter mishap -- it won't be from
the same camera. The MBNA chopper departed the 34th St. helipad and
headed north a distance before crashing near 42nd St.