A helicopter crashed into the Hudson River Wednesday afternoon shortly after taking off from a Manhattan heliport, authorities said.
The pilot, identified as Eric Morales, was repositioning his aircraft after refueling. He was flying over the water to get to where he typically picks up customers when the helicopter began to lose altitude for unknown reasons about 50 feet from the heliport.
"All of a sudden, he felt the helicopter go down," said NYPD Assistant Chief Stephen Hughes.
The chopper crashed into the water just before 2:30 p.m. When it went down, flotation devices deployed to keep it above water. Morales, 34, was rescued by a passing NY Waterway ferry a short time later.
The FDNY said Morales was treated for a minor laceration to his hand, and an employee at the heliport was hurt by debris.
The helicopter is operated by ZIP Aviation, but had Blade Helicopters branding on the side. Blade, which runs short trips from Manhattan to local airports for $195 a seat, said in a statement that it does not own or operate the aircraft, and it was "not servicing a Blade mission at the time."
Morales, who lives in Mendham, New Jersey, has been a pilot with ZIP since January 2019, according to a LinkedIn profile. Before that, he flew for Helicopter Adventures in Myrtle Beach for five months in 2018.
Ferry Captain Adam Sciaino was transporting passengers between West 39th Street in Manhattan and 14th Street in Hoboken when he happened to see the aircraft go down. His deckhand deployed a rescue device off the ferry bow, NY Waterway said.
"It was just instinct. Just another day for NY Waterway rescues," Sciaino said in a statement. "We're right here. Edwin Montoya is an outstanding deckhand. He moved instantly to the rescue."
It was the second rescue for Sciaino in 10 years with the company.
The aircraft, identified by th FAA as a Bell 206, was pulled out of the water and lifted onto a barge Wednesday afternoon. It was taken to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has called for a ban on helicopter flights over Manhattan and Brooklyn until their safety can be studied and assured.
"Helicopter flights are not subject to proper regulation and safety standards and pose significant public safety risks to our community," Maloney said. "Today's crash is yet another reminder that oversight of helicopter operations over New York City is absolutely necessary."