A helicopter crash-landed on the roof of a 54-story office building in midtown Manhattan Monday, sparking a fire and killing at least one person, authorities say.
A call about the incident at the AXA Equitable Center on Seventh Avenue and West 51st Street came in shortly before 2 p.m. The NYPD confirmed the hard landing on the roof of 787 Seventh Avenue; it wasn’t clear why the chopper would have tried to land there, nor was it clear who owned the chopper.
Law enforcement sources said the helicopter took off from a Manhattan heliport, possibly heading for or near the Statue of Liberty, before going off course and crashing. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the chopper was airborne for about 11 minutes before crashing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a briefing near the crash site just before 4 p.m., said there was no ongoing threat and no evident ties to terrorism. But he also said authorities did not yet know a cause for the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was an Agusta A109E helicopter and a preliminary investigation indicated the pilot was the only person aboard. Air traffic controllers did not handle the flight, the FAA said, adding that the National Transportation Safety Board would lead the investigation. The NTSB said a short time earlier that it was aware of the situation and monitoring developments.
The hard landing and subsequent fire sent thick gray smoke billowing from the top of the towering building, which also houses offices for BNP Paribas, the French bank. The blaze was out within about 30 minutes.
The NYPD warned of road closures to both traffic and pedestrians from 42nd Street to 57th Street from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue — effectively shutting down a large chunk of midtown Manhattan.
Gov. Cuomo, who was in the area at the time, said from the scene that “at this point there is no indication” that the landing could be terror-related, though the FBI was responding as a precaution. Multiple city officials confirmed that as well.
Weather was poor at the time; at the time of the crash, the cloud ceiling height was around 600 feet, meaning it’s likely the top of the building was enshrouded in clouds, according to the National Weather Service.
President Trump tweeted about the crash, thanking first responders and adding “(the) Trump Administration stands ready should you need anything at all.” Officials confirmed Trump and Cuomo spoke after the crash.
The building that was hit and neighboring buildings were evacuated as a precaution — at least one person tweeted that he or she felt a building shake — and video posted to social media showed people standing outside in the rain.
Wanda Tucker, who works in the building, tells News 4 she was on her way back from lunch when a co-worker asked if she felt the building shake. She said she didn’t — then seconds later, an announcement blasted over the loudspeakers advising everyone inside the building was being evacuated.
“We were a little anxious because the company that I work for, they were in the World Trade Center when we had that,” Tucker said, referencing the 9/11 terror attacks. “So it was like, real emotional. People just trying to get out of the building. I’m just happy to be out.”
Commonwealth Partners, which partially owns the building along with California public pension fund CalPERS, hung up when News 4 called for information. The high-rise was built in 1986.
There have been multiple incidents over the years with small aircraft hitting skyscrapers in Manhattan. In 2006, a plane carrying New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle hit a 40-story condominium tower on the Upper East Side.
In 1977, a helicopter crash on the roof of what was then the Pan Am Building killed five people.