An aircraft was reported down near Powells Cove Blvd and 158th St. shortly after 3 p.m.
The single-engine Cessna plane struck a concrete pier in Whitestone which belongs to the Beechhurst Beach Club.
The crash happened close to a children's play set, though there were no reports of any injuries on the ground.
The FDNY said two people were rescued from the wreckage by a good samaritan who witnessed the crash while riding on a personal watercraft.
Firefighters removed a third person.
The male pilot and a male passenger are in critical condition at the hospital.
One passenger died.
Neighbors told Eyewitness News they recognized the seaplane as belonging to a neighbor.
Firefighters confirmed the pilot kept the plane in a hangar on the water behind his home and is known to fly in the area often.
"Witnesses said that the plane was traveling fast along the water, skipped twice and hit the pier. Why this happened we have no idea right now," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
"We were all just sitting in the house and then we heard a loud boom and we thought it was like a truck crash or something. And then my cousins they came outside and we saw the plane. And all of a sudden a bunch of fire trucks came out and we saw some bodies get pulled out," eyewitness Laura Balviso said. "It's frightening, we never see something like this and my family knows the people. We just hope they're okay."
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the public to keep the victims in their thoughts:
"A small seaplane crashed into a pier on Riverside Drive in Queens earlier today. Emergency crews are on the scene. 3 passengers have been taken to the hospital. We'll provide more updates as we get them. Please keep these people and their families in your thoughts tonight."
The FAA released a statement with preliminary information:
"New York City authorities notified the FAA that a single-engine Cessna 182 crashed into a pier at Powell's Cove Blvd. and 158th St. in Whitestone, Queens at 3 p.m. today. Local authorities will release the number of people aboard, their names and medical conditions. The FAA will release the aircraft registration after Investigators confirm it at the scene. The FAA will investigate. The National Transportation Safety Board was notified about the accident. NTSB will determine the probable cause of the accident and will release all updates. Neither agency releases names of people aboard aircraft."
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