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Pilot dies in helicopter crash on New York City skyscraper

Updated June 10, 2019 - 1:01 pm

NEW YORK — A helicopter crash-landed on the roof of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper Monday, killing the pilot and briefly unnerving the city.

The crash happened at around 2 p.m. in a steady rain and clouds that obscured the roof of the 750-foot (229-meter) AXA Equitable building.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spoke to reporters at the scene about 20 minutes after the crash, said the impact shook the building and caused a fire that was quickly brought under control. There were no other reports of injuries.

The crash, close to both Rockefeller Center and Times Square, sent rescue vehicles swarming to the building and immediately evoked memories of the Sept. 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. It was not immediately known what type of helicopter was involved. New York officials said the pilot was believed to be the only one aboard.

Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper.

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.

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

Alex Jacobs 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 crash into the same river 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 mishap.

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