Small aircraft crashes into building in New York City

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Photo from Manhattan, author Jennifer Hess, licensed under CC-By 2.0
Photo from Manhattan showing the building right before the fire was extinguished, author RatSkrew, All Rights Released
Location of plane crash on New York City's Upper East Side.
Photo from Manhattan showing the building after the fire was extinguished, author RatSkrew, All Rights Released
NBC screenshot of the impact.

A small aircraft struck an apartment building in New York this afternoon, killing the pilot and a flight instructor. Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees baseball team, was the registered owner of the aircraft and is believed to have been piloting it; his passport was found on the scene. The flight instructor was Tyler Stanger.

The plane, a Cirrus SR20 with registration number N929CD, hit the 26th floor of the Belaire Condominium, a 50 story brick luxury residential building on the Upper East Side at 524 East 72nd Street at York Avenue near the East River in Manhattan, New York City, of which the first 20 floors are a hospital. An eyewitness, present half a block from the building, reported that the plane hit the building, creating an enormous fireball, broke in two and crashed down onto on the street below. Authorities received a 911 call reporting a crash at 2:42 p.m. Eastern time.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a press conference at approximately 5:20 p.m. Eastern time to report that the plane was occupied by a flight instructor and a student pilot, but as next-of-kin had not been able to be notified, the identities of the two people on the plane would not be released at this time.

Apartments were seen to be engulfed in flames. The FBI has stated that it was not an intentional attack. The New York area was grey and overcast during the time at crash; however, visibility was not hampered.

After an hour and a half, the fire was extinguished by the FDNY. According to CNN Television ten people have been injured, six of them firefighters. The New York Times, however, reports that eleven firefighters have been injured.

Initial reports suggested that a helicopter was involved, but the FAA has stated that it was a fixed-wing aircraft. CNN Television reported that it was a single-engine fixed-wing plane which left Teterboro Airport, a busy General Aviation airport in New Jersey, circled the Statue of Liberty was tracked on radar until it was lost near the 59th Street Bridge, that the plane may have been having fuel problems or fuel pump problems, and that it was "a pilot in distress."

Wallace Sines, a source for CNN stated he believes the plane was a Cirrus SR-20 with an installed parachute, which did not deploy. The whole-plane parachute system may have saved the lives of the aircraft occupants had it been safely deployed clear of buildings, but the system is not designed to prevent the trauma associated with a plane impacting a builing. The Cirrus SR-20 was introduced in 2001 and the Cirrus line of 4-seater aircraft has since become one of the most purchased single engine aircraft in the world. The SR-20 does not normally carry an airline-style flight-data recorder, but some are equipped with GPS equipment which logs flight direction, speed and altitude.

The aircraft was owned by baseball player Cory Lidle. He was on board reported by AP. Lidle was killed, according to reports. CNN Television reported that the FBI stated he was at the controls as the only occupant of the plane, and that his passport was found on the ground below the accident.

Response

A little over an hour and a half after the crash, the fire was extinguished after 39 fire units and over 100 fire fighters responded.

The White House has said that there has been no change in the terror threat alert level and that President Bush is being updated constantly.

La Guardia airport was temporarily restricted to no take offs from other airports, however by 4:10 Eastern Time, CNN Television reported that all New York-area airports were open.

CNN Television announced at 3:50 p.m. Eastern Time that as of a few minutes earlier, NORAD is putting fighter aircraft on patrol over certain major American cities as a precautionary measure similar to the actions taken after the 9/11 attacks as a "just in case" measure. It also reported that tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of the attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.

Moments after the crash, there was a drop in the New York Stock Exchange, however it quickly returned to normal after it was reported that the crash was an accident.

The New York Yankees organization confirmed the plane is registered to Cory Lidle of the New York Yankees, who was planning to fly from New York to Florida, and that some unnamed member of the Yankees organization was on the plane.

Eyewitness accounts

One eye-witness interviewed by the BBC stated: "I was wondering why the plane was doing acrobatics and then the next thing I knew was that it had crashed into the building." She also added that the plane was a small, white, 4-seater winged aircraft and not a helicopter as many news agencies were reporting it to be.

CNN Television broadcast reports from eyewitnesses who reported:

  • A pilot who saw the impact stated, "It looked like a pilot who was desperately trying to get to an airport."
  • Another eyewitness who saw the event from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, also referred to the incident as appearing as if the plane was "desperately trying to get to LaGuardia" and that as to whether he "clipped" the building, or struck it directly, that "he hit it dead on."
  • "I heard a buzzing noise and then an explosion which looked like a mushroom cloud."

Sources

Wikinews
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