Helicopter crash atop foggy Manhattan
skyscraper kills pilot
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[June 11, 2019]
By Gabriella Borter
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A helicopter crashed
onto the fog-shrouded roof of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper on Monday,
killing the pilot and unnerving a city still scarred by memories of the
Sept. 11, 2001, airplane attacks on the World Trade Center.
The crash on a rainy, gray day atop the 54-storey AXA Equitable Center
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 the chopper when it plunged into
the building and burst into flames, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
told a news conference. 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," de Blasio said, adding nothing indicated "an act of
Nicolas Estevez was standing across the street from the building when a
12-inch (30 cm) piece of metal that appeared to be from the helicopter
landed on the pavement just feet away.
The crash, which sent people streaming out of the building within
seconds, reminded him of Sept. 11, 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, 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 in a statement “FAA air traffic
controllers did not handle” the helicopter’s flight, but a spokeswoman
for the agency declined to say whether the aircraft was observing
prevailing flight restrictions.
The pilot was identified as Tim McCormack, 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,” Dudley said in a phone interview. “We’re all saddened and
McCormack worked for Daniele Bodini, founder of the real estate firm
American Continental Properties Group, Dudley said.
The chopper took off from a heliport on Manhattan's east side at 1:32
p.m. and crash-landed on the building 11 minutes later, officials said.
The site is about half a mile from Trump Tower, where U.S. President
Donald Trump maintains an apartment. The area has been under a temporary
flight restriction since his election in November 2016.
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Smoke is seen rising from a building after a helicopter crash in New
York City, New York, U.S., June 10, 2019 in this still image taken
from a video obtained from social media. LANCE KOONCE/via REUTERS
FELT LIKE HE WAS SHOVED
Nathan Hutton, who works in information technology for the French
bank BNP Paribas on the 29th floor, said the building shook when the
helicopter slammed into the roof.
"It felt like you were just standing there, and someone takes their
hand and just shoves you," he said. "You felt it through the whole
Trump called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was at the scene
soon after the crash, to offer assistance if needed, the governor's
Cuomo said the crash likely stirred memories of Sept. 11 for many
"If you're a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD from 9/11," he
In addition to BNP Paribas, the AXA Equitable Center, built in 1985
houses offices for corporate tenants such as law firms Willkie Farr
& Gallagher and Sidley Austin, and investment manager New Mountain
Capital. Le Bernardin, one of New York City's most celebrated
restaurants, is also in the building.
The skyscraper is managed by Los Angeles-based CommonWealth
Partners. CommonWealth office manager LeAnn Holsapple said the
company had "no comment at this time."
Manhattan has only three approved heliports after they were banned
in New York City in 1977 after a rotor blade snapped on a helicopter
on top of the former Pan Am building, killing five people.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Additional reporting by Peter
Szekely, Jonathan Allen, Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman; Writing
by Joseph Ax and Bill Tarrant; Editing by Bill Rigby, Tom Brown and
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