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Helicopter crashes on Manhattan skyscraper, leaving 1 dead

Pilot of privately owned aircraft presumed killed

Emergency vehicles fill the street at the scene after a helicopter crashed atop a building near Times Square and caused a fire in Manhattan. (Photo by Ken Moriyasu)

NEW YORK -- A helicopter crashed onto the roof of a high-rise just blocks away from Midtown Manhattan's Times Square soon before 2 p.m. on a rain-soaked Monday, evoking memories of the attacks from Sept. 11, 2001.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that one person was killed in the crash landing and the person was presumed to be the pilot. The 50-plus-story building, on Seventh Avenue between 51st and 52nd streets, was evacuated.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill said the helicopter was privately owned. The aircraft took off from the 34th Street heliport at approximately 1:32 p.m. and crashed 11 minutes later onto the roof.

Nathan Hutt, 59, who works for BNP Paribas in the IT department on the 29th floor, said he felt the impact when the helicopter hit the building and smelled the burning.

"We thought it was an earthquake," he said. "Two minutes after that happened, the alarm went off and the security came in and said, 'Everybody, just grab your bags and walk out of the door now! Don't take the elevators, down the staircases!'"

It took Hutt 30 minutes to reach the lobby. People from every floor ran into the staircase and it was very crowded. Hutt said people were scared.

"Everybody was somewhat calm, but they were nervous because [what happened on Sept. 11, 2001] is in the back of your mind," said Hutt.

New York firefighters are standing by across from the building where the helicopter crashed. (Photo by Marrian Zhou)

People on the lower floors had a less-stressful experience but worried nonetheless.

Morgan Aries, 39, a UBS employee working on the 14th floor, said the crash felt like a small earthquake and the evacuation got held up three times because there were so many people on the staircase.

"Everybody was on their phone in the stairwell, trying to figure out [what happened,]" said Aries.

Law enforcement has not found out the cause of the crash landing, but there was no indication of the incident being a terrorist attack.

The Police Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Bureau of Investigations will continue investigating the incident.

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