Pi­lot dies as heli­copter crashes on top of high-rise build­ing in New York City

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page -

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

The crash near Times Square and Trump Tower shook the 750foot 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 A109 E 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 Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice bans air­craft from fly­ing be­low 3,000 feet within a 1-mile ra­dius of Trump Tower, which is less than a half-mile from the crash site.

“There’s some­thing mys­te­ri­ous here,” 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.

The pi­lot, iden­ti­fied by his em­ployer as Tim McCor­mack, was a former fire chief in up­state Clin­ton, N.Y. With 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence fly­ing he­li­copters and sin­gleengine air­planes, he was cer­ti­fied as a flight in­struc­tor last year, ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion records.

The East Clin­ton Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment posted on Face­book that Mr. 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, ac­cord­ing to FAA records.

The heli­copter went down about 11 min­utes af­ter tak­ing off from a he­li­port along the East River, a

lit­tle more than a mile away. Po­lice Com­mis­sioner James O’Neill said it may have been re­turn­ing to its home air­port in Lin­den, N.J..

The di­rec­tor at Lin­den Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port, Paul Dud­ley, de­scribed Mr. 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,” Mr. Dud­ley said. “I be­lieve he tried to get on the roof and spare the peo­ple on the ground.”

Mr. McCor­mack, 58, chron­i­cled some of his heli­copter flights on his Face­book page, in­clud­ing a 2014 emer­gency land­ing caused by a bird strike. He had been con­duct­ing a sight­see­ing tour over Man­hat­tan when the bird pen­e­trated the wind­shield of his Bell BHT 407, caus­ing Mr. McCor­mack to land un­ex­pect­edly at the West 30th Street He­li­port.

“It was pretty much like an ex­plo­sion go­ing off in your cock­pit,” Mr. McCor­mack told tele­vi­sion sta­tion WABC at the time.

The crash hap­pened shortly be­fore 2 p.m. Mon­day, when clouds ob­scured the roof of the build­ing. Res­cue ve­hi­cles swarmed to the scene a few blocks from Rock­e­feller Cen­ter.

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, Mr. Ro­driguez said, but he was rat­tled be­cause he im­me­di­ately thought of the Sept. 11 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 photo 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,” Gov. An­drew Cuomo told re­porters.

Work­ing for a bank on the build­ing’s sev­enth floor, Ken­dall Sawyer felt a shake — “jar­ring enough to no­tice,” but work­ers weren’t sure what it was, she said.

Then came an an­nounce­ment that the sit­u­a­tion was be­ing looked into, and a few min­utes later, an in­struc­tion to evac­u­ate, with­out ex­pla­na­tion, she said.


A photo taken by mem­bers of the New York City Fire De­part­ment on Mon­day shows the scene of a heli­copter crash at 787 Sev­enth Ave. in Man­hat­tan. The pi­lot was killed, but there were no other in­juries.

Mark Lennihan/As­so­ci­ated Press

Mist and smoke cover the top of a build­ing near 51st Street and 7th Av­enue on Mon­day in New York, where a heli­copter crash-landed on the roof of a rain-shrouded mid­town Man­hat­tan sky­scraper.

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