Survivor of East River crash is from Danbury

Posted: Updated:
DANBURY -

A helicopter crashed into the East River Monday, killing five, and the only survivor is the pilot, who is from Danbury.

Richard Vance was at the helm as it crashed down into the water, flipped on its side and sank.

"People died while he was piloting…I know that's got to be hard on him," said Jacqueline Taylor, one of Vance's neighbors.

In a mayday call as the chopper was falling from the sky, Vance reported engine failure. After it crashed, authorities say he freed himself from the wreckage before rescuers pulled him from the cold water. He was taken to a hospital.

The victims included Dallas Fire-Rescue Officer Brian McDaniel; Trevor Cadigan, a video journalist from Dallas who recently interned at Business Insider in New York; and Carla Vallejos Blanco, who was from Argentina, according to the country's consulate.

"It was a great tragedy that we had here," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Michael De Marchi, the chief pilot at Centennial Helicopter in Danbury, told News 12 he has flown with Vance for training and pilot certification. He said Vance is a well-trained, very capable pilot. He said video showing the doomed helicopter's descent appeared to follow emergency procedure. But he also noted that the time of day probably presented visibility challenges and may have made depth perception difficult.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Meriden resident Cyndee Richmond, Vance's mother, said she's been estranged from her son for more than four years. But she added that news of his connection to the crash shocked her nonetheless.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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