For hours Monday, fog had surrounded the skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan, hiding the upper floors. Suddenly, there was a jolt and a noise that some compared to an explosion. A helicopter had crashed onto the roof of a 51-story office building and burst into flames.
Only one person was aboard the aircraft when it hit the roof of 787 Seventh Ave. at 51st Street about 1:43 p.m. ET, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That person was reported to have been killed, two city officials said.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said it had taken off from the heliport on the East River at 34th Street at 1:32 p.m., 11 minutes before it slammed into the building.
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 the helicopter’s owner, Daniele Bodini, who he said commuted to the city from upstate New York.
787 7th ave, #midtown NYC. We’re 1 block south. 20 mins ago there was a loud sound like a too-low #helicopter & I looked up and saw sheet of flame on roof and then smoke. News reports saying helicopter/small plane crash onto roof which would be consistent with what I heard/saw. pic.twitter.com/swY3ksLskH— Lance Koonce (@LHKoonce) June 10, 2019
A police official characterized the incident as a “hard landing.” But it was not immediately clear what caused the helicopter, an Agusta A109E, to crash blocks from heliports along the Hudson River and the East River.
The crash prompted building evacuations as police closed off streets. And it unnerved New Yorkers who wondered if it had been an accident or something deliberate.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who arrived quickly at the scene, said there was no indication of terrorism. He said the helicopter seemed to have made an emergency landing.
Cuomo acknowledged that the initial reports of the accident unsettled people. “If you’re a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right from 9/11,” Cuomo said. “I remember that morning all too well.”
Andrew Heath, 37, was working on the fifth floor of the building where the helicopter crashed.
“We heard an explosion — it sounded like a manhole cover had exploded,” he said. “I heard and felt it. It was like a thud. I was wondering if a really heavy truck was driving by, but it was a little too much.”
Another worker on the seventh floor said it “felt like a small earthquake.”
The site of the accident, the AXA Equitable Center, is an office tower that is more than 750 feet tall. It was built in 1985.