Yankee Pitcher Dies as Plane Crashes Into NYC High-Rise
NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 2006 — -- A small plane with New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle aboard crashed into a 50-story condominium tower today on Manhattan's Upper East Side, killing at least two people -- including Lidle -- and raining flaming debris on sidewalks, authorities said.
Federal Aviation Administration records show the single-engine plane was registered to Lidle, and FBI reports show that Lidle's passport was found at the scene. The FBI believed Lidle was the only person aboard the plane and the other three deaths occurred inside the building.
The twin-engine plane came through a hazy, cloudy sky and hit the 20th floor of the Belaire -- a red-brick tower overlooking the East River, about 5 miles from the World Trade Center site -- with a loud bang, touching off a raging fire that cast a pillar of black smoke over the city and sent flames shooting from four windows on two adjoining floors.
Large crowds gathered in the street in the largely wealthy New York neighborhood, with many people in tears and some trying to reach loved ones by cell phone.
"I was worried the building would explode, so I got out of there fast," said Lori Claymont, who fled an adjoining building in sweatpants.
Young May Cha, a 23-year-old Cornell University medical student, said she was walking back from the grocery store down 72nd Street when she saw an object out of the corner of her eye.
"I just saw something come across the sky and crash into that building," she said. Cha said there appeared to be smoke coming from behind the aircraft, and "it looked like it was flying erratically for the short time that I saw it."
"The explosion was very small. I was not threatened for my life," she said.
Richard Drutman, a professional photographer who lives on the 11th floor, said he was talking on the telephone when he felt the building shake.
"There was a huge explosion. I looked out my window and saw what appeared to be pieces of wings, on fire, falling from the sky," Drutman said. He and his girlfriend quickly evacuated the building.