In two interviews with New York City police investigators, Vance said that when he first noticed he was having engine problems, he thought about landing in Central Park, but ruled that out and headed toward the East River, two officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News.
Daniel Thompson, a 34-year-old singer and president of the non-profit Young New Yorkers' Chorus, was also among the dead, according to an official with the group, as were two 26-year-old friends from Texas, Trevor Cadigan and Brian McDaniel.
The passengers had chartered the helicopter from Liberty Helicopters for a private photo shoot.
At least 2 people are reported dead and 3 are in critical condition out of five that were recovered from the crash, according to officials. Brian McDaniel, right, was a firefighter in Dallas. The passengers had to be cut out of their harnesses by emergency divers.
Witnesses told NY1 that they saw the helicopter drop into the water, submerge and turn onto its side.
"It took a while for the divers to get these people out", he said.
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Investigators began working Monday to determine what caused Sunday night's crash.
"One of the most hard parts of the operation we're told is the five people besides the pilot were all tightly harnessed so these harnesses had to be cut and removed in order to get these folks off of the helicopter which was upside down at the time and completely submerged", said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
The NTSB will likely look at three things: the pilot's training, experience and immediate response during the crash; what, if anything, on the helicopter caused the crash; and what environmental factors may have contributed to the crash, said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney based in Missouri.
"We will investigate very carefully if there are any safety issues - whether it's particular to this operator or systemic throughout operations - we will issue, if needed, an urgent safety recommendation, and that means that it comes out as soon as it's needed in order to prevent this from happening again", she said.
A helicopter crash in October 2011 in the East River killed a British woman visiting the city for her 40th birthday. "Sully" Sullenberger glided his US Airways Charlotte-bound plane to safety in the icy waters of the Hudson River, expertly evacuating passengers and crew members.
The skies over NY constantly buzz with helicopters carrying tourists, business people, traffic reporters, medical teams and others.
The flight lasted only 11-minutes before the aircraft crashed into the East River, killing all five passengers on board.
Eight people were onboard, but no one was seriously hurt. The other hit the water shortly after takeoff on a sightseeing flight, injuring six tourists and the pilot.