World & Nation

Helicopter pilot dies in crash-landing onto skyscraper in Manhattan

A helicopter crash-landed on the roof of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper Monday, killing the pilot, authorities said.

The crash happened around 2 p.m. EDT in a steady rain amid clouds that obscured the roof of the skyscraper, the AXA Equitable building, the New York Fire Department said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spoke to reporters at the scene about 20 minutes after the crash, said the crash shook the building and caused a fire but that the blaze was under control and there were no other reports of injuries.

The incident, close to both Rockefeller Center and Times Square, sent rescue vehicles swarming to the building and immediately evoked memories of the 9/11 attacks, though officials said there were no indications it was related to terrorism.


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

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would investigate the incident. It was not immediately known what type of helicopter was involved.

Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper, which is about 750 feet tall.

Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the building on West 51st Street near 7th Avenue, said workers got an announcement to evacuate, and that 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, 2001, attacks.


“It’s scary when something like this happens,” he said.

Alex Jacobs said he was working on the seventh floor when he heard bells and an announcement to evacuate. He and his colleagues — who hadn’t heard or felt an impact — used stairs to a fire exit. “It’s really unfortunate. I just hope everyone’s OK,” he said.

New York City has a history of both minor and major helicopter wrecks and crash landings.

Last month, a helicopter crash-landed in the Hudson River near a busy Manhattan heliport. The pilot escaped mostly unscathed.

Five people died when a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the East River last year. Three people died in another East River crash in 2011. Nine people died in a collision between a sightseeing helicopter and a small plane in 2009, not far from the scene of Monday’s crash.

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