- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) | Hudson River divers on Monday found the wreckage of a small plane and one of two victims missing after a midair collision, with a sightseeing helicopter, that killed nine people.

The wreckage of the single-engine Piper was found in about 60 feet of water in the middle of the river, indicating it had drifted from the spot where it crashed, closer to New Jersey’s riverbank, said the New York Police Department’s top spokesman, Paul Browne. It was found on its side with no wings visible.

NYPD divers couldn’t remove the man’s body from the aircraft wreckage. The Army Corps of Engineers was being consulted about trying to pull the aircraft to the surface of the river, which is less than three-quarters of a mile wide at the crash site between New York and New Jersey.

Nine people - two men and a boy from a Pennsylvania family on the plane and five Italian tourists on the helicopter - died in Saturday’s collision, which occurred in a congested flyway popular with sightseers. The pilot of the tour helicopter also died. Before Monday afternoon, seven bodies had been recovered.

The helicopter was raised from the water Sunday.

At an afternoon briefing, National Transportation Safety Board chief Debbie Hersman said an eight-day NTSB survey of the river corridor before the collision counted about 225 aircraft flying within a 3-mile radius of the collision site each day.

The airspace where many of these tour craft fly is below 1,100 feet, where pilots are largely free to choose their routes, radioing their positions periodically but not communicating regularly with air traffic controllers.

Miss Hersman said air traffic controllers at Teterboro (N.J.) Airport told the pilot of the small plane to switch radio frequencies so controllers at Newark (N.J.) Airport could communicate with him. She said Newark controllers never made contact with the pilot before the crash.

The five Italian tourists have been identified through their fingerprints, said Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta.

Mr. Castellaneta said he had met with the medical examiner in New York and with relatives of the victims.

“Today the relatives were asking me, ‘How it can be that a holiday in New York can become such a tragedy?’ ” Mr. Castellaneta said in Italian. He promised to find out and said, “We intend to keep that promise.”

About a half-dozen relatives of the Italians were still in New York, including cousins and uncles, waiting to travel back with the bodies. A group of 10 tourists had traveled from Italy, two to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary.

Other members of the tourist group had gone on a helicopter ride a day before the crash and had planned to go again, Mr. Castellaneta said.

Prosecutors in Bologna, Italy, on Monday opened a routine investigation into the crash after receiving a complaint from Codacons, an Italian consumers’ group. The probe for multiple manslaughter and causing a disaster does not name any suspects.

Miss Hersman said on NBC’s “Today” show that investigators eventually will examine the aircrafts’ structural integrity and will try to determine how the initial impact occurred.

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