Image: Mid-air collision wreckage
Mel Evans  /  AP
Investigators examine the wreckage of an airplane, right, that sits on a pier next to the wreckage of a helicopter on Wednesday in Hoboken, N.J.
updated 8/12/2009 4:24:00 PM ET 2009-08-12T20:24:00

The remains of five Italian tourists killed in the air collision over the Hudson River were taken to Kennedy International Airport to be sent home Wednesday as divers recovered 30 pieces of the helicopter in which they had plunged to their deaths.

Family members and friends — many wearing the casual clothing they brought for their New York vacation — held a private Roman Catholic prayer service for the victims at Campbell's Funeral Home in Manhattan.

A police escort led the five black hearses that had lined Madison Avenue to the airport.

Italian officials outside the funeral home said the caskets would be placed on a Eurofly plane for a direct flight to Bologna, Italy.

The five tourists lived near the city in northern Italy. They included a father and his teenage son, and another family of three — a husband and wife and their teenage son. They were among nine people who died in the collision Saturday between a tourist helicopter and a small plane.

Nine police divers returned to the Hudson River on Wednesday, recovering helicopter parts 30 feet below the surface of the river. The pieces included gauges from the aircraft's cockpit, a fire extinguisher, an engine cowling, a hinge and latch, and scraps of plastic and aluminum of various sizes, said police spokesman Paul Browne.

Over the weekend, divers had removed about 20 small pieces of helicopter wreckage from the collision. The plane, its wings missing, was pulled from the river on Tuesday.

Hugs and prayers
Outside the funeral home, the dozen or so family members and friends stood on the sidewalk making the sign of the cross in unison and hugging each other as pallbearers carried out the bronze caskets. Each was placed in a hearse with a bouquet of white roses.

The priest who led the prayer service embraced several of the mourners, who followed the hearses in an NYPD van.

Silvia Rigamonti, who lost her husband and son in the collision, was not among the mourners. She flew home to Italy several days ago to be with family and await the arrival of her loved ones.

Rigamonti did not go on the aerial tour because she was scared of the helicopter. She and her husband, Michele Norelli, came to New York to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

The 51-year-old Norelli died along with their son, Filippo Norelli, 16, as well as friends Fabio Gallazzi, 49; his wife, Tiziana Pedroni, 44; and son Giacomo Gallazzi, 15.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: 911 calls released from midair crash

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