- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Investigators and workers in hard hats gathered up the scorched pieces of New York Yankee Cory Lidle’s shattered plane at a luxury high-rise yesterday during a floor-by-floor sweep for clues to why the aircraft crashed.

The pitcher and his flight instructor were killed when their plane slammed into the 40-story condominium tower Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Debbie Hersman said crews started their search at the top of the building and worked down, looking also on terraces and ledges for any aircraft parts. They found a damaged, burned memory chip on a third-floor terrace and a hand-held Global Positioning System device.

Men in hard hats also lifted pieces of wreckage from the street and placed them neatly on a silver-colored tarp in the bed of a pickup truck. Neighborhood children gathered to gawk at the jagged and twisted metal, glass shards, and charred wing and door.

Miss Hersman said the single-engine plane tried to turn left to go south down the East River at 700 feet, and was last seen on radar about a quarter-mile north of the building, in the middle of a turn, at 500 feet.

“Early examination indicates that the propellers were turning” at the time of impact, she said. That suggests the engine was still running.

Residents began returning to their battered and scarred apartments, one day after the crash engulfed some units in flames and sent fiery wreckage raining down on the street and sidewalk. One witness said he saw the charred body of one of the victims in the street.

“It was in a fetal position, strapped into a seat,” said maintenance worker Juan Rosario, adding that plane wreckage, including a door and wheels, was strewn near the body.

More details emerged yesterday about the flight instructor who was with Mr. Lidle aboard the four-seat Cirrus SR20 during the sightseeing flight around Manhattan. Tyler Stanger, 26, operated a flight school in La Verne, Calif.

He and Mr. Lidle apparently planned on flying from New York to California this week because the Yankees were defeated in the playoffs.

“They were going to fly back together. It was right after the loss to Detroit,” said Dave Conriguez, who works at the airport coffee shop in California that Mr. Stanger frequented. “Tyler’s such a great flight instructor that I never gave it a second thought. It was just, ‘See you in a week.’”

The crash prompted renewed calls for the government to restrict the airspace around Manhattan to help ensure planes cannot get so close to the city’s skyscrapers. Much of the airspace over two of the main rivers that encircle Manhattan is open to small aircraft flying under 1,100 feet.

A day after the crash, the apartment building had a gaping hole where bricks and glass used to be, and a black scorch mark six stories long.

Mr. Lidle, who was 34 and had a wife and 6-year-old son, had obtained his pilot’s license during last year’s offseason.

Since 2001, the NTSB has investigated 18 accidents involving the Cirrus SR20; those crashes resulted in 14 deaths.

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