- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2009

HOBOKEN, N.J. | Divers pulled a helicopter and four more bodies out of the murky Hudson River on Sunday in their search for victims, wreckage and explanations from a midair collision of a sightseeing helicopter and a small plane that killed nine people.

The dead from Saturday’s crash include three fathers and their three teenage sons. The private plane carried a family from Pennsylvania, and the helicopter held five Italian tourists celebrating a couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.

The plane approached the helicopter, which had just taken off for a 12-minute tour, from behind and clipped it with a wing, witnesses said. Both aircraft split apart and fell into the river.

Searchers fought swift currents, dealt with visibility as low as one foot, and dodged debris dumped along the river bottom as they brought four more bodies onto boats. One was found in the fuselage of the helicopter, New Jersey State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said. Two bodies remained missing.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crane lifted the twisted wreckage of the helicopter from 30 feet of water. Nearby, a sonar scanner found the small plane wreckage, New York City police said. More plane wreckage was found farther out in the river under about 50 feet of water.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were reviewing flight data from the Teterboro Airport, where the plane took off a little before noon Saturday.

The plane was not required to have a flight plan and did not file one, said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Debbie Hersman.

The plane was flying at about 1,100 feet at the time of the crash, she said. Below that altitude, planes in that part of the Hudson River corridor are to navigate visually. Above that, they need clearance from air traffic controllers.

The control tower at Teterboro handed off responsibility for the plane to the tower in Newark about a minute before the crash and told the pilot to contact Newark controllers, Ms. Hersman said. But the Newark officials never heard from the pilot.

One of the Italian victims was a husband celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary, a family friend said. His wife had stayed behind because she was afraid of flying, but their 16-year-old son was in the helicopter.

The five tourists were from the Bologna, Italy, area: Michele Norelli, 51; his son Filippo Norelli, 16; Fabio Gallazzi, 49; his wife, Tiziana Pedroni, 44; and their son Giacomo Gallazzi, 15.

The trip was a gift from Mr. Norelli’s sister, family friend Giovanni Leporati said. “The anniversary already happened but they took advantage of the August holidays and went,” Mr. Leporati told the Associated Press by phone.

The helicopter company, Liberty Helicopters, released the name of the pilot in the crash: Jeremy Clarke, of Lanoka Harbor, N.J. The NTSB said the pilot, who was born in 1976 and came to work for Liberty last year, had about 2,700 hours of flight time.

The plane’s pilot was 60-year-old Steven Altman, of Ambler, Pa., two law enforcement officials told the AP on the condition of anonymity because all the bodies have not yet been recovered or identified. Also in the plane were 49-year-old Daniel Altman, of Dresher, Pa.; and his 16-year-old son, Douglas, the officials said.

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