Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that the cause of the deadly East River helicopter crash remained unclear, but there was no evidence that it was the result of an obvious mechanical problem or fire.
“We will not speculate. We want to be cautious,” said NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind. “There are no rule-outs at this point.”
Both the NTSB and New York City Police Department are continuing their investigation.
Rosekind emphasized that the process is complex and that several factors are being considered, including the weight of the passengers as measured against the helicopter's 3,200 pound "maximum gross weight" and weather conditions.
“The board will look at the human, the machine, and the environment," said Rosekind.
The NTSB spokesman also offered a detailed account of what led to the crash based on statements from the pilot.
“After takeoff, at about 15 feet above ground and 45 degrees into a turn is when the pilot reported a problem. He considered turning left, but that would’ve been into a populated area. The aircraft then crashed into the water and flipped upside down,” said Rosekind.
Earlier in the day, representatives of the NTSB said a preliminary investigation revealed that part of a rotor blade was missing from the chopper when they pulled it out of the river.
The Bell 206 helicopter, which was registered to pilot Paul Dudley, went down around 3:30 p.m. shortly after taking off from the 34th Street heliport.
Emergency crews arrived within seconds and rescued three passengers and the pilot.
The body of Sonia Marra, 40, was recovered several hours after the crash.
An Australian newspaper identifies her as a well-known and "bubbly" restaurant owner who was visiting with her partner Helen Tamaki.
Tamaki and Marra's mother were taken to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition.
Her stepfather was treated and released from NYU Medical Center.
The pilot was treated on the scene.
The wreckage was pulled from the water a few hours after the crash and transported to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.
Investigators say since the aircraft was largely recovered in one piece it will help them in their probe, though it could take months to determine the cause.
Several witnesses reported the helicopter idled and then spun around before crashing.
Two officers with the New York City Office of Emergency Management who were near the area on another call were first to arrive on the scene Tuesday. They say quick thinking was key to preventing an even more tragic outcome.
"I am just glad that we were here. It was perfect timing, that's all it really was, that we happened to be right here when it happened. Thank God for that," said OEM Officer Wess Doskocil.
Investigators say because the 35-year-old aircraft was operating as a private sightseeing charter it may not have needed to meet the same requirements as a commercial flight.
The helicopter's pilot, Paul Dudley, is a manager at Linden Airport in New Jersey, where the chopper originated.
Investigators say he has 25 years of flying experience, including more than 2,200 hours of flight time -- most of which was done aboard helicopters.
"He's a commercial rated pilot. He's, you know, he knows his stuff," said pilot Joe Martinez.
"Great skills, qualified pilot. He's been in a couple of situations and got out, I think he did a great job saving whoever he could save in the situation that he was in. So kudos to him. I just feel bad for the woman who lost her life, it's a shame," said pilot Ron Lopes.
Back in 2006, Dudley was involved in an emergency landing after his aircraft's engine failed.
He guided a single-engine Cessna to safety, landing in Offerman Park in Brooklyn.