Video journalist Trevor Cadigan was all smiles for the camera as he boarded a New York helicopter.

His friend, and Dallas firefighter, Brian McDaniel gave the thumbs up as they took off for a sunset flight around the Statue of Liberty.

Tragically, those moments would be their last.

Just minutes later, the doomed Liberty Helicopters chopper crashed into the East River killing the five passengers on board.

Pilot Richard Vance, who was the sole survivor of the crash, has told investigators a piece of luggage may have hit the emergency fuel shut off button, or a strap may have wrapped around and pulled the cut-off lever.

“We have seen many things happen, but I personally have never seen this happen in an aircraft,” National Transportation Security Board spokesperson Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

Fourteen NTSB investigators have arrived at the crash site to begin the investigation.

They are examining Mr Vance’s theory as well as investigating whether six inflatable pontoons on the helicopter properly deployed.

The crash is the company’s third in just over a decade.

In 2009, nine people were killed after a helicopter collided with a small plane over the Hudson River, and in 2007, a sightseeing chopper dropped into the Hudson, but everyone was able to escape.

In the latest crash on Sunday, the five passengers were harnessed in tightly to open doors to take photos, but it turned out to be a death trap.

The other victims have been identified as Argentinian tourist Carla Vallejos Blanco and two men who worked for a sightseeing ticket company, Tristan Hill and Daniel Thompson.