Helicopter crashes into the Equitable Center in Midtown Manhattan; 1 dead

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(Courtesy of FDNY)

A helicopter crashed into the AXA Equitable Center in Midtown Manhattan during a rainstorm on Monday afternoon, killing the pilot, according to emergency officials.

FDNY and NYPD personnel responded to 787 7th Avenue, between West 51st Street and West 52nd Street, at about 2 p.m., officials said. That area is just north of Times Square.

An Agusta A109E helicopter with one person on board crashed into the building, which is 1750 feet high, at about 1:45 p.m., the FAA said in a statement.

"FAA air traffic controllers did not handle the flight," the FAA tweeted. "The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will determine probable cause of the accident."

"FDNY members are operating on scene at 787 7th Ave in Manhattan, helicopter crash landing," the FDNY tweeted. "The fire has been extinguished. There is currently one fatality reported."

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that firefighters responded to the building in about four minutes, went to the roof, and quickly "put water on the fire" and put it out. Fire crews then worked to contain a fuel leak.

The privately owned helicopter took off from the East 34th Street Heliport at about 1:32 p.m. and 11 minutes later crashed onto the roof of the 54-story AXA Equitable Center, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said.

A real estate company called American Continental Properties used the helicopter for executive travel. The company identified the pilot who died as Tim McCormack, of Clinton Corners, New York. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that authorities do not have any indication of a connection to terrorism or of an ongoing danger to the city. He said that the incident could have been much worse. The mayor said the helicopter would have needed clearance from the LaGuardia tower to fly over Midtown.

Police closed several streets to both vehicles and pedestrians from West 42nd Street to West 57th Street from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue for about two hours. Police reopened most of the streets (except 50th to 52nd streets) to crosstown traffic around 4 p.m.

The AXA Equitable Center houses the bank BNP Paribas, the law firm Sidley Austin, the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, financial services company Stifel, and several other companies. 

Several people who work in the building told FOX 5 NY that emergency crews told them to evacuate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that the crash shook the building.

"If you're a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11. And I remember that morning all too well," Cuomo said. "So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker's mind goes."

Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the building, said workers got an announcement telling everyone to exit, and he later heard from people around him that there was a fire on the roof. The evacuation wasn't chaotic, Rodriguez said, but he was rattled because he immediately thought of the Sept. 11 attacks

The rain has been falling for several hours in the New York area but it is not clear if the crash was weather-related.

Fox 5 meteorologist Audrey Puente said that the weather intensified right around the time of the crash, with moderate rain becoming heavy rain.

President Trump was alerted to the situation and the White House said that the president was monitoring the situation. The president's Manhattan high-rise that contains his apartment is several blocks from the scene.

"President Trump called Governor Cuomo while he was on the scene to inquire about the helicopter accident in midtown Manhattan and whether any assistance was needed," Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, said in a statement. "The two spoke and will stay in contact as the situation develops."

Several helicopters and small planes have crashed in and around Manhattan. 

With The Associated Press