Investigators Search for Clues in NYC Air Crash

MANHATTON, NY (AP)--Police boats and divers on Sunday circled the wreckage of a submerged tourist helicopter as investigators resumed their search for debris and missing bodies from the helicopter and a small plane that collided in midair, raining wreckage down on the New Jersey waterfront and into the Hudson River.

Investigators also renewed their search for pictures and video of the accident, which was seen by thousands out enjoying a beautiful summer day.

Nine people - three in the private plane, five Italian tourists and a pilot in the Liberty Tours helicopter - are presumed to have died in Saturday's collision, the city's worst air disaster since a 2001 commercial jet crash in Queens that killed 265 people. Three bodies had been recovered by Saturday afternoon.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Debbie Hersman said a nearby helicopter pilot saw the plane approaching the in-flight helicopter and tried to alert his fellow chopper pilot.

"He radioed the accident helicopter and told him, 'One-lima-hotel. You have a fixed-wing behind you.' There was no response from the pilot," Hersman said.

The pilot then saw the plane's right wing clip the helicopter, and both aircraft split apart and fell into the river, she said.

The two aircraft went down just south of the stretch of river where a US Airways jet landed safely seven months ago. But this time, there was no miracle.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the midair crash was "unsurvivable."

On Sunday morning, New York Police Department boats about 100 yards from Hoboken's waterfront circled three buoys that marked the wreckage of the helicopter, and three New Jersey State Police divers were in the choppy waters. The plane had not yet been found.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crane was moved up the river near the helicopter wreckage, which authorities hoped to remove by Sunday.

Hersman said the river's strong currents and poor visibility hampered divers' efforts to recover the bodies and wreckage.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.