Latest on plane crash that killed Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A small plane carrying Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor slammed into a Upper East Side building on Wednesday, killing them both and sending debris raining to the ground. How did it happen?

Yankees' Personnel React to Cory Lidle's Death

NTSB officials are on the scene investigating the crash. At a late Wednesday night news conference, NTSB spokeswoman Debbie Hersman said the plane was registered to Lidle. Officials are continuing to inspect wreckage of the plane as well as FAA radar to determine the cause of the crash.

We've learned from the press conference that the engine of the plane was found in a 40th floor apartment with the rest of the plane on the ground below.

Eyewitness News reporter Jim Dolan is at the scene with the latest.

You could feel the crash here on the ground earlier Wednesday. It rattled windows a block away. A small single engine aircraft piloted by Lidle crashed into the Belaire high-rise building here on East 72nd Street between York and East End Avenues around 2:40 Wednesday afternoon.

According to officials, the plane took off from Teterboro Airport at 2:28 p.m. and flew around the Statue of Liberty on what appeared to be a sightseeing trip. As the plane came up the East River, eyewitnesses say it was flying low, slow and then banked right. Air traffic control lost radar contact with the plane near the 59th Street Bridge. It then slammed into the 40th floor of the building.

"I heard the loud crash and then I turned the corner and there were flames coming out of the side of the building and all of a sudden about a minute later, debris from the side of the building fell down to the street," an eyewitness said.

Lidle, acquired by the Yankees from Philadelphia, and his flight instructor were killed. Remarkably, no one else was killed, including the two residents inside the impacted apartment.

"The two people that were there ... we did talk to them and they were a little bit shaken up. I think one stopped by the hospital just to be examined. But there was no injury whatsoever," Mayor Bloomberg said.

Moments after the impact, the bulk of the plane rained down on the sidewalk below and again, no one there was seriously hurt, as people raced from the chaos.

"I was so scared ... I thought it was another terrorist attack," a witness said.

By nightfall, various federal agencies were on hand to try and figure out what went wrong -- and people were finally able to return to their homes, including the Belaire Building.

In recent weeks, Lidle had assured the media that flying was safe and that the Yankees -- traumatized in 1979 when catcher Thurman Munson was killed in the crash of a plane he was piloting -- had no reason to worry. Speaking to The Philadelphia Inquirer this summer, the 34-year-old pitcher said: "The flying? ... I'm not worried about it. I'm safe up there. I feel very comfortable with my abilities flying an airplane."

The crash came just four days after the Yankees' embarrassingly elimination from the playoffs, during which Lidle had been relegated to the bullpen. Recently, Lidle had taken abuse from fans on sports talk radio for saying the team was unprepared.

News of the crash caused the Pentagon to scramble fighter jets over U.S. cities as a precaution. Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke, however, said it was "a terrible accident."

Investigators with the NTSB will be on the scene overnight and into the day Thursday to try to determine what went terribly wrong.

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