The mayor said that two people died and seven others were presumed dead Saturday, after a small plane and Liberty Harbor Sightseeing Tours helicopter collided in mid-air and fell into the Hudson River near Pier 40 in Manhattan.
Shortly before noon, a small, white Piper PA-32 airplane crashed into the rear rotor of a black Eurocopter AS350, according to officials and multiple eyewitnesses.
By Saturday evening, two bodies were recovered and divers are looking for more bodies and wreckage, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said the crash was "not survivable" and that the situation was "not going to have a happy ending."
Several other bodies still needed to be recovered from found wreckage, according to the mayor.
He said the helicopter took off from a helipad on West 30th Street with five Italian tourists and a pilot. He also said the plane had a pilot and two passengers, including one child.
Port Authority officials say the plane left Teterboro Airport and was bound for Ocean City, N.J. The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was registered to a partnership near Philadelphia and had the tail number N71MC.
The mayor noted that the Hudson River is a busy corridor for air travel, but it is "uncontrolled air spaces," meaning that pilots must constantly check their location, without the benefit of air traffic control.
Jamin Swinney, a former flight attendant, saw from Christopher Street that the plane banked severely to the right and that the impact sent pieces of the helicopter's rotor flying.
Many witnesses, including some who were enjoying the summer sun on the recently-opened High Line Park, either heard a loud popping noise or saw the rapid descent of both aircrafts.
"I saw a helicopter, mangled, making unnatural motions for a helicopter and no sound, nothing," said one eyewitness. "I saw pieces of the rotor flying everywhere and the helicopter just took a nosedive as the rest of the piece were kind of fluttering down."
"It happened pretty fast. I looked over, I saw a piece of metal, I saw a helicopter, and the helicopter was just going down, and it was gone, and that was it," said eyewitness Kelly Owen, who was visiting her daughter in the city.
"Then it just disappeared.... You couldn't believe it. You couldn't see anything left in the water," said Ben Wellington, another eyewitness.
Emergency water crafts were immediately dispatched from both sides of the river. About 10 crews from the Coast Guard, New York Police Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scanned the river Saturday evening, but the water only had visibility of two to three feet.
"The tides are strong and the currents are strong," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
As of Saturday evening, the two downed crafts had not emerged.
FAA officials said late Saturday there was a temporary flight restriction within three nautical miles of the search area, up to an altitude of 2,000 feet.
A previous Hudson River crash involving a Liberty Harbor Sightseeing Tours helicopter happened in July 2007, but pontoons kept the aircraft afloat. Pleasure boaters were able to rescue all the helicopter's passengers, and they only suffered minor injuries.
The Hudson River was also the site of January's so-called "Miracle On The Hudson," when a US Airways airbus slammed into a flock of Canada geese and lost power in both engines, forcing a water landing. The plane's 155 passengers were rescued.