Two of the five passengers died at the scene and three were taken to two area hospitals where they later died, a spokesman for the New York City Police spokesman confirmed early Monday.
The pilot freed himself and was rescued and was treated and released in good condition from a hospital, police said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Eurocopter AS350 went down near the northern end of Roosevelt Island at about 7 p.m. and was investigating. The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigative team would arrive on Monday.
“It’s a great tragedy,” said New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro at a press conference late Sunday. “It took a while for the divers to get these people out.”
Nigro said when the divers reached the helicopter it was inverted and in 50 feet of water with below 40-degree Fahrenheit water temperatures and four-mile-an hour currents.
The passengers were tightly harnessed and the harnesses had to be cut and removed to free the passengers in the helicopter, he added.