WASHINGTON -- A plane belonging to a professional baseball player crashed in New York because the pilot misjudged a narrow U-turn before veering into a Manhattan high-rise building, U.S. government investigators said Tuesday.
In presenting their findings, National Transportation Safety Board investigators said they still do not know whether Corey Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, or his flight instructor was piloting the plane at the time of the Oct. 11, 2006, crash. Both were killed.
Investigator Lorenda Ward told board members that the turn above the East River could have been made safely if the plane had begun the turn farther east or banked harder in the turn.
"With the proper planning, judgment and airmanship the 180-degree turn was possible," Ward said.
The pilot sought to correct the turn but instead lost altitude as the plane headed into Manhattan, she said.
"The increase in bank angle was too late," Ward said.
Lidle, 34, was killed after finishing the baseball season with the Yankees. His flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, also died when Lidle's plane slammed into the high-rise building.
Documents show that investigators have had surprisingly little to go on in reviewing the accident.
The global positioning device and cockpit display unit were too badly damaged to reveal any information. There was no cockpit voice recorder because they are not required in small, privately owned planes.
The NTSB has released some preliminary documents, identifying Lidle as the pilot and Stanger the passenger, but the papers provide no proof of who was at the controls of Lidle's Cirrus SR-20 when it crashed.
That issue is critical to the ballplayer's wife and young son, who filed suit against insurer MetLife Inc. claiming she is owed$1 million under Major League Baseball's benefit plan.
That plan, however, contains an exclusion clause for an aircraft incident in which the player is "acting in any capacity other than as a passenger," a phrase that would appear to bar Lidle's family from collecting anything more than the $450,000 basic life insurance benefit.
On the Net:
National Transportation Safety Board: http://www.ntsb.gov
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