TER­ROR ABOVE NEW YORK

Big Ap­ple spooked as chop­per crashes into sky­scraper

The West Australian - - WORLD - GABRIELLA BORTER

A heli­copter has crashed on to the fog-shrouded roof of a Man­hat­tan sky­scraper, killing the pi­lot and un­nerv­ing a city still scarred by mem­o­ries of Septem­ber 11.

The crash on a rainy, grey Mon­day atop the 54-storey AXA Equitable Cen­tre forced of­fice work­ers to evac­u­ate in one of the city’s busiest ar­eas a few blocks north of Times Square.

The pi­lot was the only per­son aboard when the chop­per plunged into the build­ing and burst into flames, New York City mayor Bill de Bla­sio said. No in­juries, ei­ther to peo­ple in the build­ing or on the ground, have been re­ported.

“The heli­copter is pretty oblit­er­ated at this point. It was ob­vi­ously a very hard hit,” Mr de Bla­sio said, adding noth­ing in­di­cated “an act of ter­ror­ism”. Ni­co­las Estevez was stand­ing across the street from the build­ing when a 30cm piece of metal from the chop­per landed on the foot­path just me­tres away. The crash, which sent peo­ple stream­ing out of the build­ing within sec­onds, re­minded him of the Septem­ber 11 plane at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­ter in 2001, Mr Estevez said.

“I saw the ex­plo­sion and the smoke com­ing out,” he said.

A key mys­tery in the crash is why the Agusta A109E was fly­ing at all in a rain­storm in

tightly con­trolled airspace above Mid­town Man­hat­tan.

To en­ter that vicin­ity, Mr de Bla­sio said, the pi­lot would have needed ap­proval from the air traf­fic con­trol tower at LaGuardia Air­port across the East River in Queens, “and we need to find out if that hap­pened”.

The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion said “FAA air traf­fic con­trollers did not han­dle” the heli­copter’s flight but a spokes­woman de­clined to say whether the air­craft was ob­serv­ing pre­vail­ing flight re­stric­tions.

The pi­lot was iden­ti­fied as Tim McCor­mack, pic­tured, who was go­ing to land at Lin­den Air­port in New Jersey, said Paul Dud­ley, the air­port’s di­rec­tor. “Tim McCor­mack is a well-re­spected, highly trained vet­eran pi­lot who also had tremen­dous lo­cal knowl­edge, hav­ing flown in this area for many years,” Mr Dud­ley said.

The chop­per took off from a he­li­port on Man­hat­tan’s east side and crashed 11 min­utes later. The site is about a kilo­me­tre from Trump Tower, where US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump main­tains an apart­ment. The area has been un­der a tem­po­rary flight re­stric­tion since his elec­tion.

Pic­ture: Wendy Slater/Twit­ter

A heli­copter crashes and bursts into flames on top of a 54-storey build­ing in Mid­town Man­hat­tan.

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