Wednesday, October 11, 2006
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor were killed Wednesday when Lidle's plane crashed into a high-rise apartment building in New York, city and baseball team officials said.
No residents at the Belaire Condominiums at 524 E. 72nd Street near the East River were injured.
Emergency responders found Lidle's passport in the street below, the officials said. Two bodies were found in the street, responders told CNN.(Watch witness accounts of cascading fireballs and a plane split in half -- 1:58 Video)
"It looks like the plane just flew into someone's living room," witness Sarah Steiner told CNN.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner confirmed that Lidle was killed in the crash.
"This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization," he said in a written statement. "I offer my deep condolences and prayers to his wife, Melanie, and son, Christopher, on their enormous loss."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would not confirm that one of the victims was Lidle, but said the two victims were a flight instructor and a student. Investigators have not been able to talk to the victims' families, he said.
Lidle was married in 1997 to Melanie Varela and has a 6-year-old son, Christopher Taylor Lidle. His twin brother, Kevin Lidle, played minor league baseball.
"There is nothing to indicate that anything remotely like terrorism was involved in this," Bloomberg stressed.
The state-of-the-art single-engine airplane was a Cirrus SR-20 registered to Lidle, said Yankees manager Joe Torre.
There was a mayday from the pilot involving a problem with fuel before the aircraft crashed into the 50-story high-rise on Manhattan's East Side, the FAA reported.( Watch the orange flames ravage the apartment -- 1:50)
Witness Henry Neimark, who is also a pilot, said he saw a plane flying at relatively low altitude which seemed to come from LaGuardia International Airport.
"It looked to me in retrospect that this was a pilot desperately trying to get back to the airport and land safely on a runway," he said.
No residents at the Belaire Condominiums at 524 E. 72nd Street near the East River were injured. More than 150 firefighters rushed to the scene of a four-alarm fire in the building. By 6 p.m., residents who lived below the impact zone -- below the 40th floor -- were able to go back into the building, Bloomberg said.
At least two Belaire residents were at home during the crash. They described a loud noise and saw pieces of metal flying into their apartment, Bloomberg said.
The National Transportation Safety Board will interview all witnesses while investigating the cause of the crash.
Bloomberg said the plane departed from Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey at 2:29 p.m. Shortly after circling the Statue of Liberty and heading north near the 59th Street Bridge, air traffic control lost contact with pilot.
Immediately after the crash NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) said it had put fighter aircraft into the air over numerous U.S. cities, though they said they had no reason to believe the event in New York was anything more than an accident, sources told CNN's Barbara Starr. NORAD did the same thing after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
NORAD Admiral Timothy Keating told CNN within an hour after the crash that the agency believed terrorism was not involved.
The FAA placed a one-mile flight restriction around the site of the crash, but New York area airports were not affected.
"The fire was raging out of two windows," witness Steiner told CNN.
Steiner said fires were burning on the ground. "It looks like the plane just flew into someone's living room there."
"It looks as if the aircraft didn't go into the building but fell down," she said. "It may be part of the debris burning on the ground."
Video from the scene shows at least three apartments in the high-rise engulfed in flames.
Lidle was 4-3 for the Yankees, who acquired the right-handed pitcher in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies on July 30.
He pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up three runs in the Yankees' season-ending loss to Detroit in the American League Division Series on Saturday.
Lidle, a nine-year veteran, was in the last year of his contract.