Around 1:45 p.m. on Monday, a helicopter crashed on top of a building in midtown Manhattan, killing the pilot. No other injuries have been reported. According to initial information relayed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the aircraft attempted to make a “forced landing” on the roof of the 54-story AXA Equitable building at 787 Seventh Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets. The building does not have a helipad. A senior official with the Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News that there is no indication of terrorism.
The pilot reportedly took off alone from the 34th Street heliport located on the east side of Manhattan, with the intended destination of Linden, New Jersey, which is separated by Staten Island and the Arthur Kill. The helicopter was in the air for 11 minutes prior to the crash. The pilot had radioed before the crash that the helicopter was in trouble. ABC News has identified the pilot, although NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said that he is “preliminarily identified, but it’s not confirmed yet. Plus we’re looking out for his family too.”
The helicopter was a privately owned Agusta A109E model registered to American Continental Properties; the FAA claims that its air traffic controllers “did not handle the flight.” Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that aircraft are not allowed in the airspace in which the helicopter was flying. Officials are investigating the reason for the crash, and why the helicopter was on such an unusual route. The crash took place on a rainy afternoon with low visibility, and according to the FAA, both Newark and LaGuardia Airports experienced ground stops due to visibility and thunderstorms at the time.
“The preliminary information is that there was a helicopter that made a forced landing, an emergency landing or landed on the roof of the building for one reason or another,” said Cuomo. “There was a fire that happened when the helicopter hit the roof. People who were in the building said they felt the building shake.” The crash sparked a fire that has been extinguished, though emergency workers are responding to “some amount of fuel leak,” according to FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro. Gothamist reports that “some debris fell onto a set back on the building, but not the street.” The AXA Equitable Center, the 752-foot building where the crash occurred, was evacuated.
As of 3:19 p.m., the NYPD states that “pedestrian and vehicular traffic closures [are] in place from 42nd to 57th streets between 8 Avenue to 6 Avenue in Manhattan.” The MTA announced that bus routes through midtown are “detoured and delayed.”
At the scene, Governor Cuomo said that “if you’re a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD 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 goes.” President Trump praised a “phenomenal job” by first responders.
As Gothamist notes, helicopter rooftop pads were severely restricted after the deaths of five people in a crash in 1977 on the roof of the Pan Am Building, now known as the MetLife building. Last week, Uber announced a service starting at $200 with flights from lower Manhattan to JFK airport, a route that could be booked by premier users of the company’s app and would take eight minutes.