Five people were killed on Sunday after a private helicopter with six people crashed into East River in New York City, authorities said. Two of the passengers were pronounced dead at the scene, while three were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Upon reaching the hospital, they were pronounced dead, according to New York Fire Department spokesman Jim Long.

Commissioner Daniel Nigron told reporters that the pilot was able to free himself, making him the only survivor of the crash. The pilot was rushed to the hospital for observation. In an audio recording of a mayday call made to LaGuardia Airport, the pilot is heard saying the helicopter is experiencing engine failure.

The crash occurred at about 7 PM North of Roosevelt Island between Queens and Manhattan.

Liberty Helicopters

According to the authorities, the passengers had chartered the aircraft for a photo shoot session. On their website, the company describes itself as one of the most experienced charter services in New York. The website also describes their choppers as state of the art helicopters. The head of Libert helicopters is yet to issue a statement regarding the crash.

CNN affiliate WABC-TV reports that this is the company’s third crash in a decade. In July 2007, a sightseeing chopper carrying eight individuals dropped into the Hudson River. Everyone survived after being pulled out by a paramedic who was on board. Two years later, another helicopter crashed into a private plane killing nine people.

After the investigation, authorities concluded that the aircraft was flying too high.

Video of the crash

The Federal Aviation Administration has identified the chopper as a Eurocopter AS350. Video of the crash was taken by John J. Magers who posted it on twitter. Magers told CNN he saw the helicopter flying low and thought it was unusual, so he started filming. Moments later the chopper crashed into the river with its rotor blades still spinning then turned sideways and was submerged in the river.

According to Nigron, rescuing the passengers was the hardest part as all of them, except the pilot, were tightly held in their seats. By the time the rescue team arrived, the aircraft had been submerged upside down to about 50ft deep. It took a while before the divers could pull everyone out and the police had to put in a request for a crane to pull the chopper out.

Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Missouri, said the National Transportation Safety Board would determine probable cause and then release a preliminary report.