CNN is reporting that two air traffic controllers, on duty at the time a light plane and helicopter collided over the Hudson River last weekend killing nine, that killed nine over the Hudson River last weekend, have both been suspended.
The two controllers worked from the New Jersey Teterboro Airport. The controller in charge of the Piper PA-32 Saratoga carrying three people “was involved in apparently inappropriate conversations on the telephone at the time of the accident.”
NBC reports he was talking to his girlfriend at the time and the supervisor was not in the building and was required to be.
NBC News ran a video of the collision on “NBC Nightly News” Thursday. It was shot by a tourist trying out his new camera.
The video shows the small plane climbing and banking but apparently not able to see the approaching helicopter gaining altitude, its rotor slicing through the right wing of the Piper then falling from the sky.
This was the first fatality reported for Liberty Helicopter.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman, Laura Brown, said in a written statement that the agency has “no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident, this kind of conduct is unacceptable and we have placed the employees on administrative leave and have begun disciplinary proceedings.”
On Saturday, the plane collided with a Liberty Sightseeing Tours helicopter carrying six people from Italy on a tour over the Hudson River. All nine on the two aircraft lost their lives.
The Piper had taken off from a Philadelphia-area airfield Saturday morning and had landed briefly at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport before heading for Ocean City, New Jersey. CNN reports the Piper pilot spoke with the Teterboro tower, which then handed him off to Newark, but the pilot never followed up to contact Newark.
The plane was flying at an altitude of about 1,100 feet when controllers lost contact with it at 11:53 a.m.
The area is very crowded, especially on the weekends when an average of 225 aircraft operate below 1,100 feet per day. The investigations will determine if new rules need to be imposed on the air corridor.
Neither aircraft has a black box recorder, but the radio communications along the air corridor over the Hudson at the time of the crash will be combined with pictures shot by the public. The public is being asked to provide any other images to aid in the investigation.
The five Italian tourists were flown home Wednesday after a memorial service in New York City attended by Mayor Bloomberg. #