Crashed Plane Was Registered to N.Y. Pitcher

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It began with a scene that was hauntingly reminicent of Sept. 11, 2001: a buildling in New York on fire, having been hit by a plane. But in a startling development, it has been learned that New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle was on the plane. Michele Norris talks with NPR's Robert Smith.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

It began with a scene that was hauntingly reminiscent of 9/11. A building in New York City on fire after having been hit by a plane. Now, a startling development. New York Yankee's pitcher George Lidle was on that plane. Police say two people have died in the incident. Both of them were on the plane. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security say there is no indication of terrorism. This is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Mayor, New York City): The plane was a plane that's basically a composite plane, so most of the body did burn up, the metal parts are basically in the street. The engine was found on one of the floors. But it's a pretty light plane and so there was not a lot of damage done to the building. And we just think we're very lucky that it was not anything more than two people, although our prayers go out to them.

NPR's Robert Smith was out at the scene of the crash today and he joins us now from New York City. Robert, what more do you now know about what happened this afternoon?

ROBERT SMITH: Well, the whole flight took about ten minutes. Around 2:29 Eastern Time, the small plane took off from Teterborough Airport, a small, light engine plane with two people on board. It reported circled the Statue of Liberty, was coming up the East River, all this perfectly legal for a flight path.

And then we're hearing reports that they sent a distress call to the FAA and then were circling around back to the south, narrowly missing another glass building when they plowed into this 50 story apartment building.

Now the amazing thing is that nobody in the apartment building was hurt. There were actually two people in the apartment at the time. And people report a huge fireball coming out and debris falling onto the streets. But those two people escaped. There were some minor injuries of firefighters, very tiny injuries, in fighting the fire. But the amazing thing is that more than two people, the two people onboard the plane, did not die in this.

NORRIS: Now that plane was registered to New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle. Do we know who else was on the plane along with him?

SMITH: We do not yet know who it was. The mayor won't even confirm that Lidle was on the plane. He said simply that there was a student and an instructor on the plane. But we're hearing from the Yankees that Lidle was on the plane. This pitcher, he's 34 years old. He had played for the Phillies. He was traded to the Yankees this summer. And he was quite famous for his piloting. He loved to fly and he said yeah, it's risky.

This is a quote he said after playing a game in Seattle. "It's risky, but it's no more risky than driving a car."

So at this point he is presumed dead. He has not been positively identified, but the plane was registered in his name and reports are that he was on the plane.

NORRIS: Robert, you had a chance to speak to people who actually saw this incident. What did they tell you?

SMITH: Well, it's amazing. You just have to turn the clock back a few hours, because although what we know now is that it was pretty miraculous that only two people died, at the time, with smoke filling the streets, this fireball coming out of this apartment building, people were absolutely terrified. One woman who was close by saw the fireball, immediately thought back to 9/11.

A construction worker who was across the street, he actually heard the plane rev its engines three times, he said, and pull up, and his crew actually saw the plane narrowly miss this other building and plow into the building. So people are pretty shooken up. But at this point, the amazing thing is they are letting people back into the building.

They're inspecting it, making sure it's safe. But it looks like by tonight, at least some people will be back in their apartments.

NORRIS: Now this is a high rise condominium building. New York is filled with high rises. What distinguished this one and what does it look like now that one side of the building is now the site of a crash?

SMITH: Well, it's surprisingly small, the hole. At first there was smoke pouring out of it and fire. You couldn't tell how big the hole was. But it was actually very small. And there's smoke stains up the side of the building and there's still debris in the streets and the place is still cordoned off. But the amazing thing about this is that the firefighters and the police department, they've all trained for this. And the mayor is saying that everything was carried out by the book. It was exactly how they wanted it to go, the emergency response.

NORRIS: NPR's Robert Smith in New York. Thanks, Robert.

SMITH: You're welcome.

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