One dead after helicopter crash lands on top of Manhattan building

A helicopter crashed onto the roof of a building in Midtown Manhattan on Monday, the New York City Fire Department said. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2019

One dead after helicopter crash lands on top of Manhattan building

NEW YORK: A helicopter made a crash landing onto the roof of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper on Monday, killing at least one person and sending a plume of smoke skyward from the top of the building.
The crash occurred shortly before 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on a rainy, foggy day at the 50-story AXA Equitable Center at 787 Seventh Avenue. Dozens of emergency vehicles swarmed the busy area, a few blocks north of Times Square.
The city fire department said on Twitter around 2:40 p.m. that one unidentified person was killed. Media reports said the person was the helicopter pilot.
Nathan Hutton, who works in information technology for the French bank BNP Paribas on the 29th floor, said the building shook when the helicopter slammed into the roof.
“It felt like you were just standing there, and someone takes their hand and just shoves you,” he said. “You felt it through the whole building.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was at the scene soon after the crash, told reporters that it appeared a helicopter attempted a forced emergency landing on the roof and that no one inside the building had been injured. It was not clear if the weather was a contributing factor.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the aircraft was an Agusta A109E, a twin-engine, lightweight helicopter. The pilot was the only person aboard, and FAA air traffic controllers did not handle the flight, according to the agency.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash, the FAA said.
Melvin Douglas, 50, who was selling umbrellas on the street, said he heard a “rumble” when the helicopter crash landed.
“I didn’t see it, but I felt it,” said Douglas. “Smoke was on top of the building.”
A fire that broke out on the roof was quickly brought under control, the fire department said. The building was evacuated after the crash.
“Phenomenal job by our GREAT First Responders who are currently on the scene,” US President Donald Trump said on Twitter after being briefed on the crash. “The Trump Administration stands ready should you need anything at all.”
The AXA Equitable Center is more than 750 feet (229m) tall and was built in 1985. A roof helipad is not listed as one of the building’s amenities on its website.
In addition to BNP Paribas, the building houses offices for a number of other corporate tenants, including law firms Willkie Farr & Gallagher and Sidley Austin and investment manager New Mountain Capital. Le Bernardin, one of New York City’s most celebrated restaurants, is also located in the AXA building.
The skyscraper is managed by the Los Angeles-based CommonWealth Partners. Reached by telephone, LeAnn Holsapple, the office manager for CommonWealth, said the company had “no comment at this time.”
Nearly a month ago, a chopper crashed into the Hudson River in New York City shortly after taking off from Manhattan, injuring two people. A sightseeing helicopter went down in New York City’s East River in March 2018, killing five passengers.


France urges US to stay in fight against extremists in Africa’s Sahel

Updated 18 min 11 sec ago

France urges US to stay in fight against extremists in Africa’s Sahel

  • Defense Minister Florence Parly to meet with US counterparts to discuss the crisis in the Sahel
  • France relies on US intelligence and logistics for its 4,500-strong mission in the Sahel

PARIS/WASHINGTON: France hopes “good sense” will prevail and the United States will not slash support for French military operations in West Africa, where groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh are expanding their foothold.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the appeal as Defense Minister Florence Parly was due to meet US counterparts on Monday to discuss the crisis in the Sahel, a band of scrubland south of the Sahara.

The Pentagon announced plans last year to withdraw hundreds of military personnel from Africa as it redirects resources to address challenges from China and Russia after two decades focused on counter-terrorism operations. Those cuts could deepen following an ongoing global troop review spearheaded by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The possibility has alarmed France, which relies on US intelligence and logistics for its 4,500-strong mission in the Sahel. The deaths of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter crash during a combat mission in Mali in November increased France’s determination to secure more support in the zone.

France believes it is time to increase, not ease, pressure on militants to prevent “Daesh from rebuilding in the Sahel,” a senior French defense ministry official told Reuters.

Parly will put her case on Monday to Esper and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

“I hope they will be rational to keep this partnership … and that good sense will prevail,” le Drian told reporters.

The US currently has 6,000 military personnel in Africa. Although some experts say a repositioning of forces is overdue, many US officials share French concerns about relieving pressure on militants in Africa.

“Any withdrawal or reduction would likely result in a surge in violent extremist attacks on the continent and beyond,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons wrote in a letter to Esper this month.

Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized northern Mali the previous year. Fighters have since regrouped and spread. Over the past year, militants have stepped up attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Although groups in the Sahel are believed to have the intent to carry out attacks against the United States, they are not currently believed to have the capacity to do so, officials say.

General Francois Lecointre, chief of staff of the French armed forces, told Reuters that the loss of US intelligence from intercepted communications would be the “biggest setback.”

“I’m doing my utmost to prevent this from happening,” he said, adding that French drone-based spying systems would not be operational until year-end.

France said this month it would deploy 220 additional troops to the region, despite rising anti-French sentiment in some countries and criticism at home that its forces are bogged down.

Parly recently visited the Sahel with counterparts from Portugal, Sweden and Estonia to press European allies to do more, especially by contributing special forces to a new French-led unit due to be set up this year.

One of the main aims of the outfit, officials said, is to improve coordination between regional troops and French planes able to carry out air strikes.

So far, take-up has been limited with only Estonia committing 40 troops, while discussions continue with eight nations. Germany has refused to take part.