A helicopter crashed onto the fog-shrouded roof of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper on Monday, killing at least one person and unnerving a city still scarred by memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, airplane attacks on the World Trade Center.
The crash occurred shortly before 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on a rainy, gray day atop the 750-foot (229m) AXA Equitable Center at 787 Seventh Avenue, a few blocks north of Times Square. Dozens of emergency vehicles swarmed the area, shutting down traffic and evacuating offices in one of the city’s busiest areas.
The person killed is “presumed” to be the pilot, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. No injuries, either to people in the building or on the ground, have been reported.
“The helicopter is pretty obliterated at this point. It was obviously a very hard hit,” de Blasio said during the briefing.
He said the cause was unknown but that there was no indication the crash was an “act of terrorism.” It was not clear if limited visibility due to the weather was a contributing factor.
Nicolas Estevez was standing across the street from the building when a 12-inch (30 cm) piece of metal that appeared to be from the helicopter landed on the pavement just feet away.
The crash, which sent people streaming out of the building within seconds, reminded him of Sept. 11, Estevez said.
“I saw the explosion and the smoke coming out,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the aircraft was an Agusta A109E, a twin-engine, lightweight helicopter. The pilot was the only person aboard, and FAA air traffic controllers did not handle the flight, according to the agency.
The chopper took off from a heliport on Manhattan’s east side at 1:32 p.m. and crash-landed on the building 11 minutes later, causing a fire that was quickly extinguished by responding firefighters, officials said.
The site is about half a mile from Trump Tower, where U.S. President Donald Trump maintains an apartment. The area has been under a temporary flight restriction since his election in November 2016.
The pilot would have required permission from air control at La Guardia Airport in New York, and investigators are trying to determine if the pilot was in contact with the tower there or at any other airport, de Blasio said.
Nathan Hutton, who works in information technology for the French bank BNP Paribas on the 29th floor, said the building shook when the helicopter slammed into the roof.
“It felt like you were just standing there, and someone takes their hand and just shoves you,” he said. “You felt it through the whole building.”
Trump called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was at the scene soon after the crash, to offer assistance if needed, the governor’s office said.
“Phenomenal job by our GREAT First Responders who are currently on the scene,” Trump said on Twitter after being briefed on the crash. “The Trump Administration stands ready should you need anything at all.”