A helicopter crashed onto the roof of a 54-story building Monday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, killing the pilot, New York City police and fire officials said. No one else was injured in the crash, which officials said appeared to be an accident — not an act of terrorism. The crash sparked a two-alarm fire at the building, located at 787 7th Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, not far from Times Square.
After an early review of evidence, investigators believe that the pilot had been stuck on the ground at the 34th Street heliport along the East River because of poor weather, but saw an opening and headed for his base in New Jersey by traveling south along the river, according to a senior city official who was briefed on the preliminary findings but not authorized to discuss them publicly. At the time, the cloud ceiling was about 700 feet. Shortly after taking off, however, the pilot changed course, apparently intending to go back to the heliport. Instead, the helicopter rose into the clouds and flew at high speed into the roof of the Midtown building. The height of the roof was roughly the same as the cloud ceiling. The pilot was not qualified to fly using only instruments, the official said, cautioning that the investigation was still at an early stage. There apparently were no radio communications between the pilot and any air traffic control towers in the vicinity, the official said.