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Helicopter pilot crash-landed on Manhattan skyscraper ‘to spare the people on the street’

A helicopter crashed into the roof of a Manhattan building Monday afternoon, killing the pilot, in what officials said was an attempt at an emergency landing. There were no other injuries or deaths, officials said.

The crash at the building on Seventh Avenue, a few blocks south of Central Park, occurred around 1:45 p.m. The aircraft was initially described as a plane, a fire department spokesman said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that there was no indication of the crash being intentional.

“If you’re a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes.”

The helicopter’s home base was an airport in Linden, New Jersey, where Paul Dudley, the airport manager, identified the pilot as Tim McCormack. He said McCormack worked for American Continental Properties, a real estate concern that said he had flown for the company for five years.


Firefighters work on the roof of 787 Seventh Avenue at 51st Street after a helicopter crashed there on June 10, 2019 in New York City.

New York City Fire Department via Getty Images

The emergency responders who rushed to the top of the building said the helicopter might have hit something on the roof as the pilot tried to land, causing the aircraft to flip over and burst into flames, one city official said.

“The aircraft came down between structural metal supports and mechanical equipment on the roof,” the official said. “So it did appear he was trying to bring it down in a clear area, but there wasn’t enough clearance to do so.”

Dudley said he believed that McCormack had chose that building as the best possible spot — or the least bad spot, considering the density of midtown Manhattan — to put the helicopter down.


A view of 787 7th Avenue in midtown Manhattan where a helicopter was reported to have crashed in New York City, June 10, 2019.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“He may have intentionally gone for that roof to spare the people on the street,” Dudley said.

“This wasn’t a landing. It was a crash. He knew it was going to be ugly.”

Videos posted on social media showed smoke from the crash emanating from the roof of the building, at 787 Seventh Ave. between 51st and 52nd streets.

Police said that a fire on the roof had been extinguished but asked people to avoid the area around the building as emergency responders headed to the scene. Other videos showed people evacuating the area in a hurry.

President Donald Trump said he had been informed about the accident, later telling reporters “It’s a big tragedy … a very sad event.”

In a statement, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated the crash did not appear to be a terrorist act. He added there was no ongoing threat to the city following the “absolutely shocking, stunning incident.”

“There were no other injuries that we know of at this point in time to anyone in the building or on the ground,” de Blasio said. “And I want to just say, thank God for that.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said that the helicopter was an Agusta A109E. Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency was gathering information to determine whether it would investigate the crash. Police say they haven’t yet determined where the helicopter was headed when it the took off from the 34th Street heliport at about 1:32 p.m. Speaking to reporters, de Blasio indicated there’s a temporary flight restriction in the airspace, requiring approval from air traffic control at LaGuardia Airport.


Firemen depart the scene where a helicopter crash-landed on top of a building in midtown Manhattan in New York on June 10, 2019. –

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

It wasn’t immediately known by Monday evening if the helicopter had received permission to fly, he added.

Visibility was low at ground level, down to just over a mile at 2 p.m.; 10 miles is considered full visibility. At the same time, rain, fog and mist were all being reported. Winds were out of the east around 9 mph at the time of the crash, though they had gusted to 20 mph earlier in the day.

The Washington Post’s Angela Fritz contributed to this report.

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