Dallas Firefighter, SMU Grad Among Five Killed in NYC Helicopter Crash

Two of the victims have been identified as North Texans Brian McDaniel, a 26-year-old Dallas firefighter, and his longtime friend, 26-year-old Trevor Cadigan.

What to Know

  • Two North Texans were killed Sunday when the helicopter they were passengers in crashed into New York's East River.
  • The pilot managed to escape and is the only survivor of the crash.
  • The pilot speculated one of the passengers inadvertently hit the fuel cut-off switch, causing the chopper to plunge into the river.

A Dallas firefighter and a recent Southern Methodist University graduate were among five passengers killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in New York City.

The helicopter went down in the East River at about sunset Sunday with six people aboard -- only the pilot survived.

The dead include four men and one woman. Two of the victims have been identified as North Texans Brian McDaniel, a 26-year-old Dallas firefighter, and his longtime friend, 26-year-old Trevor Cadigan.

Trevor Cadigan/Instagram
Trevor Cadigan, front, shared a short video clip on Instagram Sunday seconds after their helicopter took off in New York City. His longtime friend, Brian McDaniel, gives a "thumbs up" in the background. The helicopter ended up crashing in the East River -- only the pilot survived.

In the seconds after liftoff, Cadigan shared a short video on his Instagram page showing he and McDaniel in the flight's first moments.

Cadigan Family
Trevor Cadigan

Cadigan, the son of a Dallas broadcaster, graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2016 and moved to New York in October of last year to start working at a business magazine, "Business Insider," his father, Jerry Cadigan, told NBC 5 on Monday.

Upon learning of his death, the magazine released the following statement: "We were devastated to hear about the death of Trevor Cadigan. Trevor was an intern at Business Insider until a few weeks ago. He was a smart, talented, and ambitious young journalist and producer who was well-liked and made a big contribution. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."

Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans confirmed McDaniel worked C-shift at Station 36 and was coming up on his two-year anniversary with the department.

Dallas Fire-Rescue
Brian McDaniel

"Despite his short tenure, hearts are heavy with grief as we not only try to come to grips with his loss departmentally; but to also be there in every way that we can for his family," said Evans.

McDaniel was single and had no children. He is survived by his father, of Dallas, and his mother and brother, of Denver.

Firefighters at Station 36 gathered Tuesday morning for a press conference to talk about McDaniels' life. His parents wanted his story to be told by those who interacted with him every day, Evans said.

Lt. Judson Ray Smith talked about how the crew called him "Goose," as a reference to the Top Gun character, for his energy and likability. Smith said he always had a smile on his face.

Firefighters at Station 36 gathered Tuesday morning to talk about the life of Brian McDaniels, the firefighter killed in a helicopter crash in New York City Sunday.
Firefighters who worked with Brian McDaniel, the Dallas firefighter killed in a helicopter crash in New York City, say it's tough coming back to work at the station and seeing his coat on the wall.

"It's tough coming back to the fire station and seeing his coat with his name on the back of it, seeing that this morning, knowing he's supposed to be back to work today," Smith said.

"You looked forward to seeing him -- every time I'd come to the fire station," Smith said. "He always said good morning and always had a smile on his face. He was an outgoing, energetic kind of guy."

Tuesday afternoon, the United Airlines plane carrying McDaniel's body arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to a water cannon salute from D/FW firefighters, and several Dallas Fire-Rescue firefighters met the plane at the gate, where the casket draped in an American flag was transferred to a hearse.

Firefighters gave a water cannon salute at D/FW airport to the plane delivering the body of Dallas firefighter Brian McDaniel - who was killed in a helicopter crash in New York City.

Longtime Friends Remembered by Teachers, Coaches

McDaniel and Cadigan went to Bishop Lynch High School together and graduated in 2010. McDaniel was visiting Cadigan this past weekend. They had been touring the city and were sightseeing when they went on the helicopter ride.

Nearly eight years after the pair graduated from the Dallas Catholic high school, teachers and coaches were devastated to learn about the men's deaths.

“It’s a hard feeling because I loved him. I loved him very much. I’m very close to his parents as well and it's very sad on so many levels," said Michele Longoria, a journalism teacher who taught Trevor, who was also the son of a Dallas broadcaster. “Anyone who knew Trevor, if you say the name Trevor Cadigan, the first thing they’re going to do is laugh and then giggle, because he just was larger than life.”

Cycling coach Andrew Vidales, who coached McDaniel, said he was "crushed" to learn of his former student's passing.

“Whenever you lose a family member, and we were all family members here at Bishop Lynch, it just hurts. And it's just the pain that we have to go through," said Vidales. “He always had a smile on his face. Very talkative, very cheerful, optimistic and displayed an attitude that was really a wonderful attitude to be around."

“We are really a family, and as cliché as that might sound, we really, really are. We are really that close and so losing any student or any person is like losing your own child," Longoria said.

Family of Trevor Cadigan, who was killed in a New York City helicopter crash, are shown leaving the medical examiner's office.

Passengers Found Strapped-In Inside Overturned Helicopter

The five helicopter passengers became trapped when the chopper overturned in the frigid waters of New York's East River. They were pulled from the helicopter by divers, officials said. Three of them were taken to area hospitals in critical condition, while the other two were pronounced dead at the scene.

Fire Department of New York spokesman Jim Long said shortly before 1 a.m. Monday that the three critically injured passengers had died.

The pilot of the helicopter, Richard Vance, who managed to escape, was the only survivor. Vance was released from the hospital at some point overnight and details of his injuries were not known.

A senior law enforcement official told NBC 4, WNBC-TV, that Vance speculated in an initial interview that it was possible one of the passengers inadvertently hit the fuel cut-off switch with a piece of equipment, which may have caused the engine to sputter and the chopper to plunge into the river.

[NATL-NY]Rescuers Rush to East River After Helicopter Goes Down in Deadly Crash

"Mayday...Mayday...Mayday...East River engine failure!" the pilot says in a distress call moments before losing control of the helicopter and plummeting into the water, NBC 4 reported.

Witnesses said the pilot was waving both arms and yelling "Help!" from the water. A Long Island woman having dinner with her sister and brother-in-law at their apartment near 92nd street captured the exact moment of the crash on video.

Passengers on such flights are usually strapped in and shown a safety video before flying. The video instructs the passengers to use a cutter on the harness to break free during an emergency, NBC 4 reported.

Divers found the victims still tightly strapped into their harnesses in the submerged helicopter.

"Five people besides the pilot were tightly harnessed, so these harnesses had to be cut and removed in order to get these folks off the helicopter, which was upside down at the time and completely submerged," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

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