NYC helicopter crash pilot's family calls him 'true hero,' believes he died putting others' lives first

NEW YORK CITY -- The pilot who was killed when his helicopter crashed into a New York City skyscraper on Monday was highly experienced and likely would have made decisions in his final moments to try to prevent further tragedy, according to both his family and another experienced pilot who knew him.

The pilot in the crash was Tim McCormack, 58, of Clinton Corners, New York, the real estate company that used the helicopter confirmed.

The NTSB begins its investigation Tuesday into what caused the crash. McCormack's family said in a statement that they believe his final moments were heroic. The full statement reads:

"Our family lost a great man today when my brother lost his life doing his job. My brother Tim was a professional helicopter pilot who worked in private transit and was a flight instructor as well. He was a caring and compassionate man who put others first over himself. Tim died when in my opinion he put other lives first over his by using his skill as a pilot to emergency land his helicopter on a roof of a building so that it didn't impact anyone else' s life except his own. My brother was a true hero."

Paul Dudley, manager of the Linden airport where the helicopter was based, spoke to our sister station WABC-TV in New York.

"He was a very competent, well-liked, respected individual who I think did his best in a bad situation and in the last moment may well have moved to spare the people on the ground," he said.

The helicopter was flying in rain and heavy clouds when it hit the AXA Equitable Building at 787 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

Dudley, also an experienced pilot, said that McCormack probably chose that building not because it was tallest, but because the large roof would contain the debris.

"Remember, he didn't crash into it sideways, he came down on top of it, at least that's what we know so far," said Dudley. "So I think in his last moments he did what he could to make the best of it and not make it a bigger tragedy."

McCormick was alone in the helicopter that crashed Monday. No one else died in the crash.

McCormack had been a professional pilot since the early 2000s. FAA records said he had been certified in 2004 to fly helicopters and single-engine airplanes. He was certified as a flight instructor last year.

"He was no kid. He was a veteran helicopter pilot in this area," said Dudley. "Something had to overwhelm him, mechanical or weather."

WABC-TV first met him in 2014 after the windshield of another chopper he was flying shattered when a bird hit it in mid-flight.

On that day, there were passengers on board and McCormack was able to wrest control of the helicopter and land it safely.

"It was pretty much like an explosion going off in your cockpit, a little bit of a pandemonium kind of thing, you know, you have to gather yourself and we headed over to 30th Street," McCormack said at the time.

American Continental Properties said McCormack had flown for the company for the past five years.

It said in a statement that "our hearts are with his family and friends."

McCormack served as a volunteer for the East Clinton Fire District in Dutchess County, New York for about 25 years, 10 of them as a chief.

"Chief McCormack was extremely respected by not only the members of the department, but throughout the county of Dutchess and all fire services therein," said East Clinton Fire Chief Don Estes. "Tim will be exceptionally missed by his department members, not only for his leadership but his wonderful sense of humor."

The Associated Press and WABC-TV contributed to this report.
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