On Tuesday the local news in New York was blanketed with coverage of a shocking helicopter crash into the East River. Surfing from channel to channel, you heard how British tourist Sonia Marra Nicholson, the lone fatality, was visiting the city for her 40th birthday.
You heard from aviation experts on how such an accident was an act of fate, not pilot error. You heard from local politicians about how in light of this and other similar incidents, helicopter regulations need to be tightened.
What you might have missed was that Nicholson was a lesbian and that among the people pulled from the copter and rushed to the hospital in critical condition was her partner, Helen Tamaki.
It was a gruesome tragedy: The group, visiting from Sydney, had chartered a private sightseeing tour but the copter sputtered and crashed into the river shortly after takeoff. While Tamaki, Nicholson’s mother and stepfather, and the copter’s pilot were all successfully rescued, Nicholson drowned. Her body remained trapped in the helicopter’s back seat for almost two hours after it sunk into the river.
We can’t imagine the devastation Tamaki and Nicholson’s parents are feeling, and our hearts go out to them. But at least we’ve reached a point where the news includes a victim’s orientation as innocuously as they would her age or country of origin. Even if the local Fox affiliate called Tamaki Nicholson’s “life partner and roommate.”
Insult to injury or a step in the right direction?