A helicopter crashed onto the roof of a 54-story building Monday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, killing the pilot, New York City police and fire officials said. No one else was injured in the crash, which officials said appeared to be an accident — not an act of terrorism. The crash sparked a two-alarm fire at the building, located at 787 7th Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, not far from Times Square.
A New York City Police Department source told CBS News that the helicopter crash-landed on the roof but did not go into the building. The weather was foggy and rainy at the time.
A photo tweeted by the FDNY showed firefighters on the roof amid the scorched wreckage after the fire was put out. Only a small portion of the helicopter, possibly part of the tail section, appeared to be still intact.
The helicopter took off at around 1:32 p.m. from the 34th St. heliport and crashed 11 minutes later, according to Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill. It's unclear where it was headed.
The pilot, identified as Tim McCormack, was the only person aboard the helicopter. "McCormick is an experienced pilot and very well respected in the aircraft community," said Paul Dudley, airport manager in Linden, New Jersey, where the helicopter flew out of. Dudley said he believes the helicopter must have had a mechanical problem and that McCormack was trying to land on top of the building to spare the people on the ground.
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said some fuel leaked from the crash but that it was no longer an issue.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on the scene shortly after the crash and told CBS New York that it appeared the helicopter tried to make an emergency landing on the roof.
"There was a helicopter that made a forced landing, emergency landing, or landed on the roof of the building for one reason or another," Cuomo said. "There was a fire that happened when the helicopter hit the roof. ... The fire department believes the fire is under control. There may be casualties involved with people who were in the helicopter."
Cuomo also said the incident does not appear to be terror-related.
"If you're a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD from 9/11 ... so as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker's mind goes. But there's no indication that that is the case," Cuomo said.
During a press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also stressed that it appeared to be an accident. "I want to say the most important thing first: There is no indication at this time that this was an act of terror and there is no ongoing threat to New York City based on all the information we have now."
The FAA issued a statement providing further details, including that the helicopter was an Agusta A109E. "FAA air traffic controllers did not handle the flight. The National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of the investigation and will determine probable cause of the accident," the agency said.
According to FAA records, the 19-year-old helicopter was linked to a real estate company founded by Italian-born investor Daniele Bodini.
"The building shook," a man who said he worked on the 38th floor told CBS New York. "It sounded like a small engine plane at first then I just felt the building shake," he said.
Hundreds of people who worked in the building had to evacuate. 7th Avenue is closed to traffic and the NYPD advised people to avoid the area.
President Trump was briefed on the incident and lauded the emergency personnel who responded to the scene. "Phenomenal job by our GREAT First Responders who are currently on the scene," the president said in a tweet.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of pilot Tim McCormack's name.