Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the AXA Equitable building, said workers got an announcement telling everyone to exit, and he later heard from people around him that there was a fire on the roof.
Doug Brazy, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told reporters on Tuesday the agency is still working on pinpointing what caused the crash, but would not speculate.
"It was a little bit insane, a little bit scary" as workers walked down the stairs, she said.
Then came an announcement that the situation was being looked into, and a few minutes later, an instruction to evacuate, without explanation, she said.
"There were no other injuries that we know of at this point in time to anyone in the building or on the ground", de Blasio said.
It briefly triggered memories of 9-11 and fears of a terrorist attack, but authorities said there is no indication the crash was a deliberate act. And I remember that morning all too well. The crash occurred about 11 minutes after he'd taken off from a heliport along the East River, a little more than a mile away, according to the New York City Police Department. The visibility at the time of Monday's crash was about two kilometres at nearby Central Park, with low clouds blanketing the skyline. Winds were out of the east around 9 miles per hour at the time of the crash, though they had gusted to 20 miles per hour earlier in the day.
Based on interviews the NYPD conducted at the 34th Street heliport on Manhattan's east side, the pilot was waiting out the weather but for some reason decided it was OK to go, another law enforcement source told CNN.
O'Neill could not say whether the pilot made an emergency call from the Agusta A109E helicopter.
"There is no indication that that is the case", he told reporters when asked. Firefighters climbed to the top of the 54-floor building to put out the three-alarm fire. The aircraft was initially described as a plane, a fire department spokesman said. He said McCormack worked for American Continental Properties, a real estate concern that said he had flown for the company for five years.
According to Brazy the pilot, Tim McCormick, 58, took off from the 34th street heliport in Manhattan Monday afternoon after dropping off a passenger. "This could have been a much worse incident", he said.
His passengers started screaming and crying, the station reported. McCormack had also volunteered with the LaGrange Fire Department, according to Estes. "Tim's technical knowledge and abilities to command an emergency were exceptional", Estes said reading the statement. "Chief McCormack was extremely respected by not only the members of the department, but throughout the Dutchess County fire service", the department stated. "Rest in Peace brother", the statement continued.