NEW YORK — A video posted on Instagram on Sunday night recorded some of their final moments: Young faces, glowing in the pink light of dusk, smiling wide as their sightseeing helicopter lifted off the ground.
“In the air!” one of the passengers, Trevor Cadigan, appears to shout over the sound of whirling blades.
Only a few minutes later, the chopper descended into the frigid and fast-moving waters of the East River. The pilot, Richard Vance, 33, cried “engine failure” in a mayday call and turned the helicopter away from the busy streets of Manhattan. Of the six people on that flight, Vance was the only one who survived.
Among the dead, the oldest was just 34.
Cadigan, 26, was aboard with Brian McDaniel, also 26, friends from their high school days in Dallas. Carla Vallejos Blanco, 29, of Argentina, was visiting New York with a friend, a woman who decided to skip the flight. Two other men were killed: Tristan Hill, 29; and Daniel Thompson, 34, whom a law enforcement official described as an employee of the helicopter tour company that operated the craft.
Hill was engaged to be married, according to his younger brother, Brendan. The date was less than two months away.
“He always inspired me to be better,” the younger Hill said. “I was getting ready to write a speech for the wedding, not the eulogy for his funeral.”
Tristan Hill was one of three brothers raised in Reno, Nevada. He was born in Singapore, his brother said, where his parents were working at the time. He played basketball at Missouri Valley College, and he stayed involved with the sport after graduation. He coached with the Boys and Girls Club of America and organized a charity basketball camp for kids in Reno, a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club.
Brendan Hill said he was always jealous of his brother’s drive, and Tristan’s short career showed a young man with wide interests and varied talents. He interned on Capitol Hill for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, according to Hill’s LinkedIn profile. He worked at the Sierra Nevada Corp. for a time, and briefly co-owned a bar in Reno called the Stamp Social Club, which was in the basement of an old 1930s post office.
But it was Tristan’s latest venture, Brendan said, that brought him into the tourist helicopter. He moved to New York a few months ago to work on a sightseeing website called SightSy, where he was director of operations. One of the activities listed on SightSy is the “Manhattan Sky Tour: New York Helicopter Flight.”
Tristan’s other brother, Iain Hill, wrote a tribute to him on Facebook.
“The world lost a legend last night,” he wrote. “Few have brought so many together. It is in that vein I post, to help let those people know … It never mattered the schedule, if there was an experience to be lived, or more important a friend in need, he rose to the occasion. The Hudson River claimed T last night. Hug the people you love, technology to which we’ve grown accustomed, remains capable of error.”
Also on the ride was another young person who was new to the city: Cadigan, the man who took the video. He studied journalism at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and recently moved to New York to work at Business Insider, a business news website. He graduated from Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas in 2010, according to WFAA, a Dallas television station and ABC affiliate, where his father, Jerry Cadigan, is the production manager. WFAA published pictures of Cadigan with his father on its website, including one in which the two men are seated at a restaurant smiling, with bowls of giant ice-cream sundaes on the table in front of them.
Mario Ruiz, a spokesman for Business Insider, said Cadigan was an intern at the website 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,” Ruiz said in an email. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”
McDaniel, who attended high school with Cadigan, was a firefighter with the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department and had been on vacation in New York. He was a fire rescue officer assigned to Fire Station 36 in West Dallas, according to a statement from Dallas Fire-Rescue officials. McDaniel had been with the department since May 2016. He was single and had no children, fire officials said. He is survived by his father, his mother and an older brother.
McDaniel’s father, Allen L. McDaniel, said he was too distraught to talk about his son Monday morning.
“I just can’t talk about it right now,” he said. “He’s a great kid, and so was Trevor, his friend that he was with.”
His voice caught, and McDaniel began to cry.