The helicopter crashed near 89th Street in Manhattan around 7 p.m. after taking off from Kearny, New Jersey.
RELATED: Map shows exact path helicopter took over East River
The pilot was able to free himself, but the passengers were not able to get out - he was taken to the hospital, and is expected to be okay.
It took FDNY and NYPD divers a while to free the passengers from the helicopter, which was upside-down. The passengers were tightly harnessed, so responders had to get them freed.
The aircraft was operated by Liberty Helicopters for a private photoshoot.
RELATED: Crash is third involving Liberty Helicopters in past 11 years
"We were having dinner and we noticed a red helicopter going full speed towards the water. It almost looked very surreal and next thing we know it's approaching the water slowly and then it just completely crashed and then sunk. Immediate reaction was to call 911," said eyewitness Arineh Nazarian.
The helicopter is now in police possession.
The NTSB says they will be investigating.
NYC Ferry service on the Astoria and East River route is currently suspended until further notice.
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