Wed, Jun 12, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Helicopter crashes on Manhattan roof

PILOT KILLED:The East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department said that the pilot’s ‘technical knowledge and ability to command an emergency were exceptional’


A helicopter on Monday crashed on the roof of a rain-shrouded midtown Manhattan skyscraper, killing the pilot and briefly triggering memories of 9/11 after an erratic trip across some of the US’ most restricted airspace. Authorities said they did not suspect terrorism.

The crash near Times Square and Trump Tower shook the 229m AXA Equitable building, sparked a fire and forced office workers to flee on elevators and down stairs, witnesses and officials said.

The pilot was the only person aboard and there were no other reports of injuries, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, or why the Agusta A109E was flying in a driving downpour with low cloud cover and in the tightly controlled airspace of midtown Manhattan.

A flight restriction in effect since US President Donald Trump took office which bans aircraft from flying below 914m within a 1.6km radius of Trump Tower, which is less than 800m from the crash site.

“There’s something mysterious here,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN, saying officials were scrutinizing video of a “very erratic” flight and authorities needed to find out more about the pilot at the time he decided to take off.

One lawmaker called for “non-essential” helicopter flights over Manhattan to be banned.

The pilot, identified by his employer as Tim McCormack, was a former fire chief in Clinton, New York. With 15 years of experience flying helicopters and single-engine planes, he was certified as a flight instructor last year, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records showed.

The East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department posted on Facebook that McCormack’s “technical knowledge and ability to command an emergency were exceptional.”

The 19-year-old helicopter was linked to a real-estate company founded by Italian-born investor Daniele Bodini, FAA records showed.

The helicopter went down about 11 minutes after taking off from a heliport along the East River, a little more than 1.6km away.

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said it might have been returning to its home airport in Linden, New Jersey.

Linden Municipal Airport director Paul Dudley described McCormack as “a highly seasoned” and “very well-regarded” pilot who was a regular at the airfield.

He suspects that a mechanical problem or the weather “overwhelmed him and the helicopter,” Dudley said. “I believe he tried to get on the roof and spare the people on the ground.”

Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the AXA Equitable building, said workers got an announcement telling everyone to exit and he later heard from people around him that there was a fire on the roof.

The evacuation was not chaotic, Rodriguez said, but he was rattled because he immediately thought of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“It’s scary when something like this happens,” he said.

Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper. The fire department later tweeted a photograph of the helicopter’s wreckage that showed piles of burned debris on the roof.

“If you’re a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11, and I remember that morning all too well. So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters.

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