Tim McCormack has been identified as the helicopter pilot who died after crashing on top of a midtown Manhattan building. The accident was reported just before 2 p.m. on Monday, June 10; although initial reports said that the helicopter, piloted by 58-year-old McCormack, had crashed into the Axa Equitable Center, it was later determined that the fatal crash was a result of a hard landing on top of the building at 787 7th Avenue.
McCormack was the only person onboard the helicopter. According to NBC New York, Governor Cuomo responded to the scene and said in a briefing that there was no evidence suggesting it was an active threat or suspected terrorism. He did, however, say that it was unclear if McCormack had been given permission to fly in that area, which normally has heavy flight restrictions in place. Following the incident, Cuomo thanked the first responders on Twitter and added that his “thoughts are with all those impacted.” The building was evacuated for the safety of those inside it, but no injuries were reported. FDNY reported on Twitter that they were able to fully extinguish the fire caused by the crash-landing, and a fuel leak from the helicopter was successfully mitigated.
McCormack lived in Clinton Corners, New York, in Dutchess County. McCormack had taken off from the Linden Airport in New Jersey before the crash. He was well known there. “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,” Paul Dudley, the airport’s manager, told WABC-TV.
Here’s what you need to know about Tim McCormack:
1. Tim McCormack, Whose Family Says He Was a ‘True Hero,’ Was Employed by the Helicopter’s Owner
According to ABC 7, officials confirmed that Tim McCormack was flying the privately-owned helicopter when it crashed on Monday, adding that “he had taken off from 34th Street Helipad around 1:32 p.m. en route to Linden, New Jersey.” The New York Times reported that McCormack was identified by Paul Dudley, the manager of the airport where the helicopter was based. He revealed that “McCormack worked for the helicopter’s owner, Daniele Bodini, who he said commuted to the city from upstate New York.”
According to ABC News, American Continental Properties Inc. is the company to which the helicopter is registered; Forbes reports that Daniele Bodini is the real estate investment company’s founder. In a statement to ABC News, the company 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,”
According to ABC 7 News, the Federal Aviation Administration released a statement following the crash:
“An Agusta A109E helicopter crashed on the roof of 787 Seventh Ave. in New York at around 1:45 p.m. today. Preliminary information is that only the pilot was aboard. FAA air traffic controllers did not handle the flight. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will determine probable cause of the accident. We will release the aircraft registration after NYC officials will release the pilot’s name.
McCormack’s family issued a statement saying the pilot’s heroic actions saved lives.
“Our family lost a great man today when my brother lost his life doing his job. My brother Tim was a professional helicopter pilot who worked in private transit and was a flight instructor as well. He was a caring and compassionate man who put others first over himself,” the statement issued by his brother said. “Tim died when in my opinion he put other lives first over his by using his skill as a pilot to emergency land his helicopter on a roof of a building so that it didn’t impact anyone else’ s life except his own. My brother was a true hero.”
Dudley, the airport manager, agreed. “He is highly regarded at [Linden Airport]. He has tremendous local knowledge. I believe [the pilot] did his best to get that helicopter on that rooftop to spare the people on the ground,” Dudley told NJ.com.
“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 told WABC-TV. “So 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 NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash. “He was no kid. He was a veteran helicopter pilot in this area,” said Dudley. “Something had to overwhelm him, mechanical or weather.”
2. McCormack Safely Landed a Helicopter in 2014, Saving the Lives of Himself & His Passengers, After a Bird Shattered the Windshield of His Chopper
McCormack previously saved lives during a near-tragic incident in 2014, according to WABC-TV. While flying a different helicopter, a bird struck the windshield of the chopper, shattering it. During that incident, in October 2014, there were passengers on board the helicopter. He was able to make an emergency landing at the West 30th Street Heliport.
“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-TV at the time.
McCormack told the LaGuardia Airport Tower during that incident that he was making a landing. “To LGA Tower 9TD just hit a bird strike; we’re going to be heading for 3-0. If you can hear me we are declaring emergency. I cannot hear you, but we are heading for a spot to land,” McCormick said to Air Traffic Control, the news station reported.
He was flying a Bell B407 Helicopter owned by Helicopter Flight Services with six tourists on board. “They had viewed downtown, Coney Island, and we’re heading back from Yankee Stadium when the bird hit. It was perhaps a seagull. The pilot tells Eyewitness News the women started screaming and crying. He had no choice, he had to stay calm and find in emergency place to land,” the news station reported at the time.
No one was seriously injured.
McCormack said about the passengers, “They were happy when we got on the ground, everybody was happy, and then it turned into, OK everybody is safe.”
3. McCormack Had His Commercial Pilot License Since 2004
According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s airmen records, his full name is Timothy Jude McCormack and he is from Clinton Corners, New York. He was issued his commercial pilot license on September 24, 2004, and received his flight instructor certificate for “Rotorcraft-Helicopter” last year on June 28, 2018. His records also reveal that he was deemed “Second” medical class as of May 2019, meaning that he “must have available glasses for near vision.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, “This could have been a much worse incident. Thank God no other people were injured.”
4. McCormack Was Spotted ‘Flying Erratically’ Minutes Before the Crash
Cooper Lawrence shared a 38-second video of a helicopter flying through the wind, rain, and heavy cloud coverage, reporting that the helicopter caught on camera was the one that then crashed atop the midtown building, piloted by McCormack. Wendy Slater told the New York Times that she also witnessed the helicopter’s struggle, saying “It was flying really low, going up and diving down, flying sideways. I just thought he was going to crash right there in the river, but then he went north.”
Inside Edition reports that before the crash, McCormack lost contact with the Laguardia Airport tower; he attempted to make an emergency landing on the roof’s flat surface but instead came down too hard and fatally crashed into the Axa Equitable Center, located at 787 7th Avenue.
According to experts who spoke to the Poughkeepsie Journal, weather possibly played a role in the crash. It was rainy and foggy at the time of the crash, with visibility just over a mile, according to the National Weather Service.
“Loss of control is possible,” air safety expert Matt Robinson of Robson Forensic told the newspaper. He said that could occur if the pilot experienced issues with disorientation or visibility, “but at that point you need to weigh the meteorological conditions.”
William Waldock, a professor of safety and science at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, told the newspaper, “Some of the big issues they might not be able to see is windage around the building. What happens with tall skyscrapers around — you get all kinds of unusual current activity … and if there’s dust and smoke in the air, it’s hard to see. The biggest single thing is if you do have some sort of in-flight emergency there’s not many places to put it down, and you don’t want to put it down on the street.”
5. He Was a Volunteer Firefighter & Former Department Chief
McCormack was also a volunteer firefighter along with being a pilot. He worked with the East Clinton Fire District for more than 25 years and was the department’s chief for 10 years.
“Tim was previously a member of the LaGrange Fire Department. Tim was a dedicated, highly professional and extremely well trained firefighter,” the department wrote on Facebook. “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.”
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said in a statement to the Poughkeepsie Journal, “We mourn his loss, a past Chief of the East Clinton Fire District following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as distinguished first responders in Poughkeepsie, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. Tim served his community well through his selfless service as a former first responder, and we share our sympathies with his loved ones during this difficult time.”
McCormack graduated from Arlington High School in Pleasant Valley, New York, according to his Facebook page. McCormack had two stepdaughters and three grandchildren.
His stepdaughter, Trish Minns, told NBC New York, he was a “truly great man to all those who knew him. He was a devoted father and grandfather, making memories canoeing at the lake, attending school graduations and teaching the kids how to drive a stick shift.”