NEW YORK - New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor were killed yesterday after he crashed his Cirrus SR20 into a Manhattan high-rise yesterday, igniting a four-alarm fire in the 40-story building and sparking fears of a terrorist attack.
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokeswoman said that the plane was owned by Mr. Lidle, 34, and that Mr. Lidle’s passport was found on the street outside the building at 524 E. 72nd St. on the city’s Upper East Side, about a half-block from the East River. Mr. Lidle’s death was confirmed last night by the Yankees, and the second death was confirmed by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
“This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization,” team owner George Steinbrenner said, offering condolences to Mr. Lidle’s wife, Melanie, and 6-year-old son, Christopher.
“It’s very tragic,” said Mr. Bloomberg at a press conference at nearby Sotheby’s Auction House.
The plane was traveling from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey over the East River at about 2:45 p.m. when it veered off course just 15 minutes after takeoff and crashed into the Belaire Condominiums at about the 30th floor. First-responders told CNN that they found the bodies of Mr. Lidle and his instructor outside the apartment building.
The building was evacuated. More than 20 people were hospitalized, most were among the nearly 200 firefighters who doused the blaze in about an hour.
An official from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane put out a distress call, but it was too early to determine what might have caused the crash.
But for a time yesteday afternoon, when details were sketchy, the crash reawakened fears of terrorism among New Yorkers and dredged up memories of September 11, 2001, when first reports said a small plane crashed into the World Trade Center, just five miles from yesterday’s crash site.
A blond woman who did not give her name leaned on a parked car and sobbed into the rain: “Oh my God, it was just like September 11. It was so scary.”
The skies over the Midtown neighborhood were filled with police, medevac and news helicopters, while the streets below were clogged with emergency responders, which have been reassessing their procedures since September 11.
“It was really loud; it sounded like a truck going over a steel plate bump, really loud,” said a Fox News cameraman who was about three blocks away working on another story when the plane hit the building.
While flames leaped from two stories of the red-brick building that houses more than 180 luxury residences, witnesses turned to their cell phones. Most were describing memories of September 11 where they were on the day, how this revived that feeling of panic and how relieved they were that this was an accident.
One man yelled into his cellular phone: “They said this was an accident, but that’s what they said about the World Trade Center, too.”
The scene was just about a mile from the United Nations, where delegates were debating their response to North Korea’s claim to have conducted a nuclear test. Within minutes of the accident, U.N. security told the assembled diplomats that there had been an incident and that it was being monitored.
FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said the aircraft was traveling along an 8-mile corridor over the East River, where helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are allowed to fly below 1,100 feet under visual flight rules meaning they are not required to file a flight plan or talk to air-traffic control.View Entire Story
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