The pilot killed in the deadly helicopter crash at a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper on Monday was an executive travel pilot and volunteer fire department chief having problems as he flew through fog and rain.
The pilot, identified as Tim McCormack, had just dropped off his boss at the 34th Street heliport on the east side prior to the crash-landing, law enforcement sources told The New York Post.
According to CBS News, officials said the incident appears to be an accident and not an act of terrorism.
The East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department in upstate New York paid tribute to McCormack, saying he served as chief for a decade.
"Tim was a dedicated, highly professional and extremely well trained firefighter," the organization said on Facebook. "Tim will be exceptionally missed by this department's members, not only for his leadership but for his wonderful sense of humor."
McCormack was the only person aboard the helicopter. "McCormack 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.
Monday afternoon, McCormack contacted the West 30th Street heliport to say he was experiencing some kind of problem and needed to land there, The Post reports. According to law enforcement sources, investigators believe that McCormack may have gotten lost on the way, possibly due to the low visibility conditions.
Police say that the helicopter was in the air for 11 minutes when it made a "hard landing" at around 1:45 p.m. on the top of the 54-floor AXA Equitable Center building at 787 Seventh Avenue, not far from Times Square. The crash-landing sparked a two-alarm fire at the building, which was evacuated.
A photo tweeted by the New York Fire Department showed firefighters on the roof amid the scored wreckage after the fire was put out. Only a small portion of the helicopter, part of the tail section, appeared to be still intact.
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said some fuel leaked from the crash but that it was no longer an issue.
According to FAA records, the 19-year-old helicopter was linked to real estate company American Continental Properties Inc., founded by Italian-born investor Daniele Bodini.
“We are mourning the loss of Tim McCormack who has flown for us for the past five years. Our hearts are with his family and friends,” the company said in a statement to ABC News.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on the scene shortly after the crash and told reporters 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."
He said although many New Yorkers' thoughts may have jumped straight to terrorism, that the incident does not appear to be an act of terror.
"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.0comments
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."
President Donald Trump thanked the "great" first responders on the scene in a tweet Monday afternoon.
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