World: British woman killed in New York helicopter crash was celebrating her 40th birthday

WORLD: A British woman has been killed on a helicopter trip in New York organised to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Sonia Marra died after the helicopter plunged into New York’s East River shortly after take-off yesterday.

The UK expatriate, who was living in Australia, was travelling with her partner Helen Tamaki, 43, and her British mother and stepfather Harriet and Paul Nicholson.

Ms Tamaki, believed to be a New Zealander, and Mrs Nicholson, 60, were seriously injured in the crash and are in a critical condition.

The 56-year-old pilot and Mr Nicholson, 71, have been released from hospital.

The helicopter was on a private tour when it crashed into the river at 3.20pm local time yesterday, shortly after lifting off from the busy 34th Street Heliport.

It is believed Ms Marra, who lived in Sydney, was visiting New York with her family to celebrate her 40th birthday. Mr and Mrs Nicholson live in Portugal and the group, who had met in New York, were also reportedly celebrating Mr Nicholson’s birthday.

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According to reports, she was trapped inside the helicopter as it sank about 50 feet (15 metres) below the surface of the swift-moving water.

The Foreign Office today confirmed her death.

A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that three British nationals were involved in a helicopter crash in New York. One of them has been killed. Next of kin has been informed and we are providing consular assistance to the family.”

The NYPD confirmed that the two injured female passengers were in a critical condition in New York’s Bellevue Hospital.

A spokesman from New York City Fire Department said one of the injured women had suffered a cardiac arrest and the other a respiratory arrest.

The American pilot, Paul Dudley, director of Linden Airport in New Jersey, and Mr Nicholson were discharged from hospital after being examined by doctors, police said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it had been “a terrible accident” involving people who had come “to see the best of our city”.

Giving a press conference at the scene, he said: “One young woman, I’m sorry to say, did not make it. The body was recovered at roughly 4.40 this afternoon.

“The pilot was rescued very quickly and brought ashore.

“It’s our understanding that the passengers knew the pilot, they were all friends.”

He added: “All New Yorkers feel for this family, and we wish it had not happened and our prayers are with the deceased.”

He said the privately owned Bell helicopter, which was based in Linden, New Jersey, crashed “just after taking off” from the heliport on the east side of Manhattan.

Describing the events that led to the crash, Mr Bloomberg said: “From what we know so far the pilot reported having trouble keeping aloft, tried to turn back, but crashed in the water just north of the landing pad.”

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