A pilot has died and streets in central New York were evacuated after a helicopter dramatically crashed on a Manhattan skyscraper rooftop on Tuesday.
The New York City Fire Department told the Associated Press the helicopter pilot died when the aircraft crash-landed on top of the AXA Equitable building in the Midtown area, near busy Times Square.
The crash, which happened about 2pm local time (4am Australian time) on a rainy day atop the 54-storey tower, forced office workers to evacuate in one of the city’s busiest areas.
The pilot, named as Tim McCormack, was the only person aboard when the chopper plunged into the building and burst into flames, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
#FDNY confirms a helicopter has crash-landed onto the roof of 787 7th Ave in Manhattan. The fire has been extinguished, and members continue to operate in response to fuel leaking from the helicopter. There is currently one fatality reported.
— FDNY (@FDNY) June 10, 2019
No injuries, either to people in the building or on the ground, were reported.
“The helicopter is pretty obliterated at this point. It was obviously a very hard hit,” Mr de Blasio said, adding nothing indicated “an act of terrorism”.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a fire began when the aircraft hit the building, near 51st Street and 7th Avenue, but it was under control.
Mr Cuomo said the impact shook the building, which was subsequently evacuated. He said there were no reports of injuries of people in the tower.
He also said there was no indication the incident was terrorism-related.
“If you are a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] from 9/11” Mr Cuomo said. “I remember that morning all too well.”
Mr de Blasio told CNN the building that Mr McCormack hit did not have a landing pad.
“Helicopters have not been landing on buildings in Manhattan for decades,” Mr de Blasio said.
“There was a horrible crash in what was the Pan Am building some years ago and it was banned after that. And, in fact, a helicopter should not in this area of Manhattan without the approval of LaGuardia Airport tower.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft was an Agusta A109E, a twin-engine, lightweight helicopter.
It had taken off from a heliport on Manhattan’s east side and crash-landed 11 minutes later, officials said.
Video : Cooper Lawrencepic.twitter.com/eyJbKQORlQ
— Shark NewsWires (@SharkNewsWires) June 10, 2019
The chopper was bound for 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,” Mr Dudley said. “We’re all saddened and shocked.”
Mr De Blasio said the helicopter should not have been in the area, especially because of proximity of nearby Trump Tower.
The site is about one kilometre from Trump Tower, where US President Donald Trump maintains an apartment. The area has been under a temporary flight restriction since his election in 2016.
Video on social media purported to show the helicopter flying erratically above New York before the crash.
— Julian Esparza (@JulianEsparzaTV) June 10, 2019
Witness Franklin Acosta said he was in his 38th floor office at the William Lea outsourcing company when he heard what sounded like a small plane passing by.
“Then it stopped, and the building shook,” Mr Acosta said.
“I didn’t wait. I told my people to come down and get out of the building.”
Nicolas Estevez was standing across the street from the building when a 30-centimetre piece of metal apparently from the helicopter landed on the footpath just metres away.
The crash, which sent people streaming out of the building within seconds, reminded him of the September 11 plane attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001, Mr Estevez said.
“I saw the explosion and the smoke coming out,” he said.
Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper.
Mr Trump tweeted that he had been briefed about the helicopter crash and thanked the city’s first responders for their “phenomenal job”.
I have been briefed on the helicopter crash in New York City. Phenomenal job by our GREAT First Responders who are currently on the scene. THANK YOU for all you do 24/7/365! The Trump Administration stands ready should you need anything at all.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2019
Alex Jacobs was working on the seventh floor of the AXA building when told AP he heard bells and an announcement to evacuate.
“It’s really unfortunate. I Just hope everyone’s OK,” he said.