When a helicopter crash-landed on a Manhattan building Monday, it brought back unsettling memories of the 9/11 attacks for many New Yorkers—but officials say it appears that the pilot was doing his best to avoid killing people. Pilot Tim McCormack was killed in the crash-landing on the roof of the 54-story AXA Equitable Center around 2pm, just 11 minutes after he took off in heavy rain from an East 34th Street heliport, where he had dropped off a passenger, the New York Daily News reports. Paul Dudley, manager of the airport in Linden, NJ, where McCormack was based, says the pilot knew the area well and "may have intentionally gone for that roof to spare the people on the street." "This wasn't a landing," Dudley tells the New York Times. "It was a crash. He knew it was going to be ugly."
Officials say the helicopter may have hit something on the roof as McCormack tried to land, causing it to flip over. The crash is being investigated by the NTSB. It's not clear whether McCormack had permission to be flying in midtown Manhattan. Sources tell NBC New York that the pilot, who may have become disoriented in poor weather conditions, told the helipad he might need to return soon after he took off in the Agusta A109E. Authorities say there is no sign of any links to terrorism. McCormack, a highly experienced commercial pilot, was also chief of the volunteer fire squad in East Clinton, NY. The pilot's brother, Michael McCormack, tells the New York Daily News that he saved "countless lives" by landing on the Seventh Avenue rooftop. "But he perished in his endeavors. He had to know what he was doing. My brother was a hero." (Read more New York City stories.)