Plane Crash Into New York Building Kills Two, Prompts Air Patrols

NEW YORK – A small plane with New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle aboard slammed into a 50-story residential building Wednesday, killing at least two people in a fiery crash and raising new questions about security.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a flight instructor and student pilot had been killed, their bodies found on the Manhattan street below. Bloomberg said he would not reveal the names of the dead until their families had been notified, but the Yankees organization confirmed Lidle, 34, was a victim.

Lidle, the owner of the plane, told reporters recently that flying was safe despite concerns from his team. In 1979, Yankee catcher Thurman Munson was killed when the plane he was flying crashed.

Although the federal government scrambled fighter jets above American cities after the crash, U.S. and city officials emphasized that the crash appeared to be an accident and there was no evidence of terrorism.

The Pentagon called the air patrols a precaution. However, the incident in the heart of New York, coming a little over five years after terrorists crashed two hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center, raised questions about whether the U.S. remains vulnerable to attacks from the air.

"Since 9/11, the government has focused most of its efforts on commercial airlines," said David Heyman, homeland security director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Heyman said that while the crash of a small plane inflicts less damage than a jetliner, terrorists have indicated an interest in using them. He said government security efforts should pay more attention to general aviation, which includes such small aircraft.

There are air corridors for small planes and helicopters, often used for sightseeing, along the rivers on either side of Manhattan island.

The plane that crashed took off from a New Jersey airport at 2:29 p.m., circled the Statue of Liberty, headed up above the East River alongside Manhattan and then dropped below radar, Bloomberg said. A 911 emergency call reporting the crash came in soon after.


(c) 2006 Cox News Service