Whenever there is a major vehicle crash, on land or in the air, investigators immediately start looking for a reason why. Was the pilot of one of the country’s commercial planes impaired in some way? Did the mechanics of one of the 16.4 million passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2014 fail? With any luck, finding this reason will allow them to prevent future disasters from happening. In the case of Tim McCormack, however, authorities don’t yet know where to place the blame and those who knew him are left in mourn in mystery.
On Monday, June 10, McCormack crash-landed on the top of a 54-story building in midtown Manhattan. The only person injured in the incident was McCormack, who lost his life upon impact. The building was on Seventh Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets. Over 100 emergency responders rushed to the scene that afternoon.
According to CBS2, McCormack had radioed just before the crash that he was in trouble. It is unclear why McCormack was in the space, whether he was part of the 79% of domestic trips that are for leisure purposes or if he was taking the helicopter out on business. Authorities do know that the helicopter was flying in restricted airspace and that the weather conditions were rainy and foggy.
The restricted zone in which McCormack was flying surrounds the Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to Chopper 2’s Dan Rice. It is a two-mile, 3,000-foot flight restriction that Rice says a pilot who has completed the appropriate checks would know to not be in on a clear day.
“The weather itself is not the issue because the helicopter can fly in the rain, it can fly with the low clouds, but you have to be able to avoid the obstacles, in this case, obviously, the tall buildings of Manhattan,” Rice said.
Paul Dudley, the manager of the airport in Linden, New Jersey where the helicopter flew out of, said that McCormack worked for an executive and was flying his helicopter at the time. Yet, he certainly wasn’t an inexperienced pilot who happened to start flying with the last decade’s 38% increase in civilian helicopters. Dudley attested to the fact that McCormack was well-respected in the aircraft community as an experienced pilot. The manager assumes that the cause of the crash was mechanical or weather-related and that McCormack landed on top of the building in order to spare everyone on the ground.
Everyone who knew McCormack can verify that he displayed this type of heroism throughout his life. As the fire chief of the East Clinton Fire District for 10 years, McCormack was a well-known member of the community. He was also a part of the LaGrange Fire Department, where he grew up. According to his brother Mike McCormack, he loved going to the nearby Dutchess County Airport as a boy to watch the planes take off. In 2004 McCormack received his commercial pilot certificate, finally flying an aircraft like the ones that he had watched for so long.
Mike McCormack said that he spoke with his brother just hours before the crash in midtown. When they talked that morning, Mike said that Tim was healthy. He didn’t notice anything unusual, such as Tim being deprived of the seven to nine hours of sleep adults need every night or being ill in any way. According to Mike, his younger brother was simply getting ready for work as usual.
A week after the fatal crash, mourners gathered at St. Mary’s Church in Poughkeepsie, where McCormack’s funeral was set for the next day. Those honoring McCormack included local elected officials and firefighters from across Dutchess County. While the mood was somber, mourners were also able to celebrate McCormack’s wonderful life and legacy.
“I’ll remember him as a great leader, but also as a friend and a marvelous human being,” said East Clinton Fire Chief Don Estes.