Tim McCormack, 58, was killed when his chopper mysteriously crash landed on top of a Manhattan skyscraper on Monday. His colleague says the veteran pilot likely aimed for the 54-story building’s roof to avoid a much larger tragedy
The veteran pilot in Monday’s fatal helicopter crash is being praised as a hero for skillfully guiding the chopper onto the roof of a skyscraper – avoiding a much larger tragedy in crowded Midtown Manhattan.
Tim McCormack, 58, was killed when his chopper mysteriously crash-landed on top of the 54-story building at 787 Seventh Street just after 2pm amid heavy rain and thick fog.
McCormack’s colleague Paul Dudley, the airport manager at the doomed helicopter’s home base in Linden, New Jersey, says he doesn’t think the ‘highly experienced’ pilot’s actions were random.
‘He was a very competent, well-liked, respected individual who I think did his best in a bad situation and in the last moment may well have moved to spare the people on the ground,’ Dudley, also an experienced pilot, told WABC.
‘I think in his last moments he did what he could to make the best of it and not make it a bigger tragedy.’
The roof of the building went up in flames as the chopper’s impact shook the structure and a large boom echoed throughout Midtown.
Cell phone video shows panicked workers fleeing from the affected building and others in the surrounding area as many witnesses said they were reminded of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but authorities say there are no signs that it was intentional or an act of terror.
Firefighters are seen tending to the charred wreckage of the helicopter hours after it crash landed on the roof of the building at 787 Seventh Avenue just before 2pm Monday
Smoke was seen billowing from the roof of the building after a two-alarm fire broke out
Cell phone video shows panicked workers fleeing from the affected building and others in the surrounding area as many witnesses said they were reminded of the 9/11 terror attacks
The helicopter crashed into the building which houses the famed French restaurant Le Bernardin on Seventh Avenue between 51st and 52nd Street in the heart of Midtown. The crash site is just blocks away from a number of famous New York City landmarks including Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Call, Trump Tower and Central Park. It’s unclear if the pilot had the approval he would have needed to enter the airspace
Federal Aviation Administration records show that McCormack was certified to fly helicopters in 2004 and became an approved flight instructor last year.
‘He was no kid. He was a veteran helicopter pilot in this area,’ Dudley said.
He speculated that McCormack chose to land on the 750-foot building not because it was tallest, but because the large roof would contain the debris.
‘Remember, he didn’t crash into it sideways, he came down on top of it, at least that’s what we know so far,’ Dudley said.
Paul Dudley (pictured) is the airport manager at the doomed helicopter’s home base in Linden, New Jersey. He described McCormack as a ‘highly experienced pilot’ who is respected in the aviation community
McCormack made another emergency landing in Manhattan just five years ago while working for Helicopter Flight Services, a tour company.
In October 2014 he was chauffeuring six female tourists around the city on a picturesque day with perfect flying conditions when a bird struck the windshield of his Bell B407 chopper, shattering its passenger-side window.
‘It was pretty much like an explosion going off in your cockpit, a little bit of a pandemonium kind of thing, you know, you have to gather yourself and we headed over to 30th Street,’ McCormack told WABC after the ordeal.
The pilot, who had a decade of flying experience by that time, said he never lost control of the aircraft despite the missing front window, not being able to hear anything and six frightened passengers screaming and crying.
He landed the helicopter at the West 30th Street helipad and everyone emerged from the incident shaken but uninjured, save for a minor scratch suffered by the woman sitting by the window that shattered.
McCormack, a volunteer firefighter for 25 years, submitted to a drug and alcohol test, which is required following any flight accident.
McCormack was working for tour company Helicopter Flight Services in October 2014 when he had to make an emergency landing at the West 30th Street Heliport after a bird struck the windshield of his Bell B407 chopper, shattering its passenger-side window (pictured)
McCormack is seen during a news interview after the terrifying ordeal. ‘It was pretty much like an explosion going off in your cockpit, a little bit of a pandemonium kind of thing, you know, you have to gather yourself and we headed over to 30th Street,’ the pilot told WABC
Unlike the situation five years prior, it remains unclear what lead to McCormack’s emergency landing on Monday.
Sources say he radioed that he was in trouble moments before going down.
Video recorded by witness Wendy Slater, who was walking her dog along the East River near 20th Street showed the aircraft appearing to take a nose dive over the East River shortly after takeoff from the TSS Heliport at 34th Street.
At time of the crash, winds were coming in from the east at nine miles per hour, and moderate to heavy rain and fog had reduced visibility at Central Park to 1.25 miles.
Officials said the pilot had been waiting out the bad weather but ultimately decided take off at 1.32pm.
They believe the helicopter may have been headed for its home base in Linden, New Jersey, located about 12 miles southeast of the heliport.
During the 11-minute flight, McCormack is said to have taken a route around the southern tip of Manhattan before veering north toward Midtown.
He ended up crashing into the top of the building located between 51st and 52nd streets along Seventh Avenue, about a mile northwest of the launch pad.
Witness Wendy Slater recorded video of the aircraft appearing to take a nosedive over water moments before it crashed. Wet conditions created very poor visibility on Monday afternoon
The helicopter reportedly took off from the 34th Street heliport 11 minutes before it crashed into the skyscraper. Officials said the pilot had been waiting out the bad weather but ultimately decided to fly, and may have been heading to its home airport, which is southeast of the city, taking a route around the southern tip of Manhattan where Battery Park City is located before veering toward midtown somewhere between 40th and 49th streets. McCormack and his helicopter then ended up crashing into the top of the building located between 51st and 52nd streets along Seventh Avenue, northwest of the launch pad
The aircraft burst into flames on impact, but firefighters got them under control within minutes
The 19-year-old Agusta A109E helicopter was privately-owned by American Continental Properties, which said McCormack had flown for them for the past five years.
ACP is a real estate investment firm founded by Daniele Bodini, who served as the United Nations Ambassador to the Republic of San Marino, a small, independent country in northern Italy, from 2005-2016.
In a statement released by Stu Loeser & Co., American Continental Properties said, ‘We are mourning the loss of Tim McCormack who has flown for us for the past five years. Our hearts are with his family and friends.’
The helicopter was privately-owned by Daniele Bodini (pictured). The real estate scion served as the United Nations Ambassador to the Republic of San Marino, a small, independent country in northern Italy, from 2005-2016
McCormack served for ‘many years’ as the chief of the East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department, according to the message inscribed on a plaque pictured on his Facebook page, which lists him as being divorced.
The station shared a tribute to their deceased chief on Monday, writing: ‘Tim was a dedicated, highly professional and extremely well trained firefighter. Tim’s technical knowledge and ability to command an emergency were exceptional.
‘Chief McCormack was extremely respected by not only the members of the department, but throughout the Dutchess County fire service. Tim will be exceptionally missed by this department’s members, not only for his leadership but for his wonderful sense of humor. Rest in Peace Brother.’
McCormack, who served with the department from 1994 to 2019 and was chief for 10 years was previously a member of the LaGrange Fire Department.
He recently shared a post on social media on May 25 commemorating the 343 firefighters who died during the September 11th attack in 2001.
He would often share images taken from the cockpit of his aircraft, joking on October 16, 2017 about making a ‘long flight’ from Newark International Airport in New Jersey to LaGuardia International Airport in Queens.
The Clinton Corners, New York resident had received his instructor certificate for ‘Rotorcraft-Helicopter’ one year ago in June, the Daily Voice reported.
A true New York native, McCormack graduated from Arlington High School in Lagrangeville. He was listed as having graduated in 1980 by Old Friends, a website used for connecting with former classmates.
McCormack is pictured right with another man in a photo shared to social media in June 2013
The pilot served for ‘many years’ as the chief of the East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department
The East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department shared a tribute to their late chief on Monday
Chilling photographs show firefighters cleaning up the charred wreckage from the crash.
Emergency crews arrived on the scene within five minutes of reports of the crash and spent the next 30 minutes containing the resulting two-alarm fire.
What we know about Monday’s helicopter crash in Manhattan
1.32pm: Pilot Tim McCormack takes off in an Agusta A109E helicopter from 34th Street heliport
Within minutes: Witness Wendy Slater who was walking a dog along the East River near 20th Street, films the helicopter flying erratically over the water
Within 15 minutes: McCormack sends out a distress call over radio
1.43pm: First 911 calls come in reporting the helicopter crash onto the roof of the building located at 787 Seventh Avenue
Immediately: Evacuations of the building where the crash occurred and surrounding buildings begins
By 1.48pm: FDNY arrived on the scene
By 2.18pm: Most of the fire was extinguished and FDNY were working to contain leaking gas from the aircraft
3.50pm: Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference assuring New Yorkers there is no evidence that this was any kind of terrorist attack
Officials revealed what limited details are known about the crash about two hours later.
They said the helicopter would have needed approval from La Guardia tower to enter the airspace it was in when it went down.
A flight restriction in effect since President Donald Trump took office bans aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet within two nautical miles of Trump Tower, which is just a few blocks from the crash site.
This flight restriction may have accounted for the route taken by McCormack around the southern tip of the island, rather than cutting through the airspace about the city after starting his doomed trip from the East Side of Manhattan.
Authorities are looking into whether that approval was given.
The investigation is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board.
President Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the situation and praised first responders for their efforts to control the situation.
‘THANK YOU for all you do 24/7/365! The Trump Administration stands ready should you need anything at all,’ he wrote.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed reporters at the press conference, saying: ‘There is no indication at this time that this was an act of terror and there is no ongoing threat to New York City based on the information we have right now. There is no danger of any kind to New Yorkers at this point.
‘We do not know the cause of this incident. There were no other injuries that we know of at this point and time.’
He added: ‘This could’ve been a much worse incident and thank God no one else was injured in this absolutely shocking incident.’
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was on the scene shortly after the crash and said that no one in the building was hurt.
‘There was a helicopter that made a forced landing or an emergency landing on the roof of the building for one reason or the other,’ he said.
‘People in the building said they felt the building shake. It was hard landing.’
Cuomo said there is no indication the crash was intentional.
‘If you are a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD from 9/11,’ Cuomo said. ‘As soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, my mind goes where the mind of every New Yorker goes.’
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pictured arriving on the scene shortly after the crash. ‘This could’ve been a much worse incident and thank God no one else was injured in this absolutely shocking incident,’ De Blasio said at a press conference
De Blasio and other city officials addressed reporters at a rainy press conference just before 4pm
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pictured near the scene of the crash. He said there is no indication that it was intentional or terrorism-related
Describing what happened, one witness, Steven Gartner, told ABC News he had ‘heard a buzz and a bang and then the entire building shook’ while he was in his office on the 42nd floor.
Another witness, Shauna Farrell, told the network: ‘We heard a loud whizzing sound of a motor and then we heard a crash and actually felt the crash as well.’
She said people inside the building had ‘run away as quickly as we could’.
Laura Esquival, a hostess at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House across the street from the crash site, told CNBC: ‘I saw people running out. They were escorting everyone out.’
There does not appear to have been any significant damage to the structure of the 750-foot-tall building, which houses the AXA Equitable Center. Other tenants include BNP Paribas, Stifel, New Mountain Capital, Sidley Austin LLP, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, UBS, and Citigroup.
The building is also home to the critically-acclaimed French restaurant La Bernardin, which announced that it will not be open tonight due to the today’s crash.
Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, 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 September 11 attacks.
‘It’s scary when something like this happens,’ he said.
Alex Jacobs was working on the seventh floor when he heard alarm bells go off and an evacuation announcement. He and his coworkers, who hadn’t heard or felt an impact, took the stairs to a fire exit.
‘It’s really unfortunate. I just hope everyone’s okay,’ he said.
Emergency crews flocked to the scene and blocked traffic entering the area
A witness reported hearing a loud boom before flames erupted from the roof of the building located at 787 Seventh Avenue
This file image shows an Agusta A109E helicopter like the one involved in Monday’s crash