ny plane crash 298.
(photo credit: CNN)
Investigators sifted through debris inside a luxury high-rise apartment Thursday for clues to why a small airplane with New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle aboard slammed into the building, killing the pitcher and a flight instructor.
National Transportation Safety Board member Debbie Hersman said federal investigators found debris scattered everywhere.
Aircraft parts and headsets were on the ground. The propeller broke apart from the engine, which landed on the floor of an apartment. The bodies fell to the street. On Thursday, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly identified the flight instructor as Tyler Stanger of Walnut, California.
Residents were also allowed back into their apartments Thursday, except for the 39th through 41st floors, where most of the apartments were gutted by the fire and a six-story scorch mark marred the red brick.
"There's a significant amount of damage," Hersman told CNN Thursday morning.
She said investigators were taking fuel samples, looking at maintenance records and examining Lidle's flight log book, found in the wreckage - "anything that will give us a clue about what happened."
Lidle talked often of his love of flying, describing it his escape from the stress of professional baseball and a way to see the world in a different light.
"No matter what's going on in your life, when you get up in that plane, everything's gone," Lidle told an interviewer with Comcast Sportsnet out of Philadelphia while flying his plane in April.
Lidle boarded the same single-engine plane Wednesday afternoon with Stanger for what was supposed to be a leisurely flight around New York City. They took off from a suburban New Jersey airport, circled around the Statue of Liberty, flew past lower Manhattan and north above the East River.
But something went wrong just moments after passing above the 59th Street Bridge. The plane smashed into a luxury high-rise condominium building on the Upper East Side, killing Lidle and the other passenger and showering fiery debris on the sidewalk and street below, officials said.
The crash briefly raised fears of another terrorist attack in this scarred city.
"It was very scary," said Diane Tarantini, who was sitting in an outdoor courtyard across the street when she heard a loud boom and saw a big fireball that reminded her of Sept. 11. "It brings back all these memories about planes hitting buildings, the terror of that day in September."
Lidle's passport was found on the street, according to a federal official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. It was not immediately clear who was at the controls or who was the second person aboard.
Lidle had repeatedly assured reporters in recent weeks that flying was safe and that the Yankees - who were traumatized in 1979 when catcher Thurman Munson was killed in the crash of a plane he was piloting - had no reason to worry.
His teammates were stunned at the news of the crash.
"Right now, I am really in a state of shock," Jason Giambi said in a statement. "I have known Cory and his wife Melanie for over 18 years and watched his son grow up. We played high school ball together and have remained close throughout our careers. We were excited to be reunited in New York this year and I am just devastated to hear this news."
On Sunday, the day after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs, Lidle cleaned out his locker at Yankee Stadium and said he planned to fly back to California, making a few stops. Lidle had reserved a room for Wednesday night at the historic Union Station hotel in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, hotel spokeswoman Melanie Fly said.
Lidle's twin brother, Kevin, told CNN's "Larry King Live" the family was having a tough time.
"But what can you do? Somehow you hang in there and you get through it," he said. "I've had a lot of calls from friends and family, people calling and crying. And they've released some emotions, and I haven't done that yet. I don't know - I guess I'm in some kind of state of shock."
Lidle pitched with the Phillies before coming to the Yankees. He began his career in 1997 with the Mets and also pitched for Tampa Bay, Oakland, Toronto and Cincinnati.
The crash touched off a raging fire that cast a pillar of black smoke over the city and sent flames shooting from four windows on two adjoining floors. Firefighters put the blaze out in less than an hour.
At least 21 people were taken to hospitals, most of them firefighters. Their conditions were not disclosed.