Investigators combed 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 arrived Wednesday evening and 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.
"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 an instructor 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. There was no official confirmation of Lidle's death from city officials, who still needed to identify the bodies.
A federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said that authorities had a report that the plane sent a distress call to the Federal Aviation Administration before the crash.
But Hersman said at a late-night news conference that, "we've asked the FAA and they have reviewed some aircraft-control tapes. At this point they have no indication that there was a mayday call."
The flight lasted about 20 minutes, with a 911 call about a fire coming in around 2:45 p.m.
The Cirrus SR20 was manufactured in 2002 and purchased earlier this year, Hersman said. The small aircraft has four seats and is equipped with a parachute designed to let it float to earth in case of a mishap. The parachute apparently did not engage after the crash.
NTSB records indicate a total of 12 accidents involving the Cirrus SR20, first flown as a prototype in 1995. In two accidents this year, pilots reported engines losing power.
The plane that crashed Wednesday was registered to Lidle, FAA records show.
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."
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...
A small plane with New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle aboard crashed into a high-rise condominium tower Wednesday on the Upper East Side, killing at least four people and raining flaming debris on...
FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown said Thursday the agency has decided to review guidelines and flight restrictions.
The NTSB 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.