NYC helicopter crash: 'When I hear an explosion like this, it makes me think of that day. You don’t forget'

Grace Hauck and Kevin McCoy

NEW YORK —  A privately-owned helicopter crash landed onto a building in the heart of Midtown Manhattan just before 2 p.m. Monday, killing the pilot and starting a fire, the city Fire Department said.

Photos on social media showed a major fire and police response to the area near Times Square. Streets around the crash site were closed on a rainy day in the city.

The pilot has been identified as Tim McCormack by the manager of Linden Airport, which was the home base of the helicopter.

Gov. Cuomo said preliminary information indicated the helicopter made an emergency landing on the building. He said he did not know why but stressed that there were no immediate signs of terrorism.

Cuomo said the crash resulted in a fire on the roof that was extinguished by firefighters.

Where did the crash happen?

The helicopter took off from the 34th street heliport at approximately 1:32 p.m., according to authorities at a press conference Monday afternoon.

The helicopter crashed 11 minutes later on top of 787 7th Avenue, not far from Rockefeller Center and Times Square. The building is the AXA Equitable Center, a 752ft skyscraper.

Was anyone in the helicopter hurt?

The pilot died in the crash, according to several authorities. No one in the building was injured.

The helicopter apparently had no passengers aboard, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the press conference.

Why did the helicopter crash?

“We do not know the cause," Mayor de Blasio said of the crash, which he called an “absolutely, shocking, stunning incident.”

Mayor de Blasio said that there was "no ongoing threat" and "no danger" at this time.

It was unclear whether the pilot had cleared his flight with LaGuardia Airport authorities, according to officials at the press conference.

The building shook inside

"People who were in the building felt the building shake," Cuomo said. "Many of the people in the building voluntarily left, but there was no official evacuation of the building."

Franklin Acosta said he was in his 38th floor office at the William Lea outsourcing company when he heard what sounded like a small airplane passing by.

“Then it stopped, and the building shook,” Acosta told USA TODAY. “I didn’t wait. I told my people to come down and get out of the building.”

Jacqueline Fajardo was at work in the 42nd floor offices of the Willkie Farr & Gallagher law firm when the crash happened.

“Suddenly, I heard an explosion — boom,” said Fajardo. “And then the whole building shook.”

“I could tell it was right nearby. My heart started shaking.”

“As soon as the building said everyone should evacuate, I grabbed my things and got out,” said Fajardo, who took shelter from a Monday rainstorm beneath one of the marquees to the Broadway theater where the musical Beetlejuice is playing.

“I left so fast I forgot my umbrella," Fajardo said.

She said the frightening tragedy reminded her of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That day, Fajardo said she was working at 1 Financial Center, near the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

“When I hear an explosion like this, it makes me think of that day. You don’t forget," she said.

No indication of terrorism

Cuomo said police and fire officials were still obtaining information on the crash. There was no immediate indication of terrorism, he said.

"If you are a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD from 9/11," Cuomo said. "I remember that morning all too well."

Mayor de Blasio stressed that there was no indication of terrorism at the afternoon press conference. "I want to say the most important thing first: there is no indication at this time that this was an act of terror, and there is no ongoing threat to New York City," he said.

President Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the crash. He thanked first responders for doing a "phenomenal job."

Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, says President Donald Trump has called the governor to offer assistance.

Street closures

The New York Police Department initially reported that passengers and vehicles would be closed off from 42nd to 57th Streets between 8th and 6th Avenue in Manhattan.

Shortly after 4 p.m., NYPD and FDNY personnel began moving emergency vehicles from the center of Seventh Avenue to parking spaces along the one way southbound route, in preparation for reopening it to regular traffic. There was no sign at street level of the crash above.

Minutes later, the first cars, taxis and trucks started trickling through.

The story is developing, check back for more details.

Contributing: John Bacon, Elizabeth Lawrence, Kevin McCoy, Elinor Aspegren, Jonathon Campbell, Joshua Bote, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NYC helicopter crash: 'When I hear an explosion like this, it makes me think of that day. You don’t forget'