Yankees 'stunned' after pitcher dies when plane hits highrise

New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and another person died when a plane roared into a Manhattan tower, causing 'incredible' damage, according to a federal official.

New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and another person were killed in a small airplane that crashed into a Manhattan apartment building on Wednesday afternoon and caused what a federal official described as "incredible" damage.

Lidle, a 34-year-old former Toronto Blue Jays player, and a person who hasn't been publicly identifieddied after the plane roared into the 30th and 31st floors of the 40-storey building in the affluent Upper East Side.

It sentblack smoke and flames billowing from two floors and sparking fears of a repeat of the al-Qaedaattacks ofSept. 11, 2001.

New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, a former player for the Toronto Blue Jays, earned his pilot's licence last season and the plane was registered in his name. ((Jim McIsaac/Getty Images))

National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Debbie Hersman said late Wednesday night that there was "incredible damage" at the point of impact.

The engine of the plane was located in the apartment, with most of the rest of the aircraft located outside the building, she said.

Hersman said the Federal Aviation Authority learned the plane took off from the airport in Teterboro, NewJersey, at 2:21 p.m. ET.

Hersman said the FAAhas found no evidence so far that a flight plan was filed. She also saidair traffic control tapes revealed the pilot planned on flying up and down the East River, which can be navigated by visual flight rules and doesn't have to be subjectto any tower controllers.

The accident sent11 civilians, 14 firefighters and two police officersto hospital with minor injuries, she said.

The Cirrus S-R-20 plane was registered to Lidle, whoearned his pilot's licence last season. Lidle's passport was found on the street by the highrise located at East 72nd Street and York Avenue near the East River, CNN and the Associated Press reported.

Yankees 'stunned' by crash

The baseball community was quick to react to reports thatLidle was inthe plane.

"This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization. I offer my deepest condolences and prayers to his wife Melanie, and son Christopher, on their enormous loss," Yankee owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement issued through his publicity officer.

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig also extended his condolences to the Lidle family in a statement, and a moment of silence was observed before Game 2 of the American League Championship Series in Oakland, a team Lidle once pitched for.

Firefighters work in the debris of the apartments struck by the plane, after quickly extinguishing the blaze. Eleven firefighters were treated for minor injuries. ((Jeff Christensen/Associated Press))

Toronto general manager J. P. Ricciardi andpresident Paul Godfrey also issued a statement mourning the loss of the former Blue Jay.

"I knew Cory well from the time he spent with the A's in Oakland and, of course, when he came to join us in Toronto," said Ricciardi. "I am numb with today's tragic news. My sympathies go out to his entire family and especially his young son."

The other victim was believed to have been a flight instructor. It wasn't immediately clearwho was piloting the plane when it crashed.

The plane is equipped with a parachute in case of an aerial mishap, but there was no evidence the feature was used, officials said.

'Terrible accident' spurred fears of terrorism

The crash initially sparked fears of a repeat of the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when militants steered two planes into the city's World Trade Center twin towers and killed thousands of people.

While NORAD deployed fighter jets over some U.S. cities as a precaution,officials from both the White House and the FBI said there were no initial indications that the crash was related to terrorism.

New York City Police Department officers watch as smoke pours out of the side of the apartment building. ((Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images))

"The initial indication is that there is a terrible accident," said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke.

Plane looked 'out of control'

The tower was built in the late 1980s and is located near Sotheby's Auction House. It has 183 apartments, many of which sell for more than $1 million.

Rob Miranda, a construction worker who was working in the building at the time of the crash, told CBC News that the aircraft was probably a single-engine plane.

"It seemed like the plane was out of control. It just didn't sound right. It wasn't going in a straight line," he said.

Yankees catcher died in 1979 crash

The incident was not the first fatal air crash involving a Yankee who was passionate about flying.

All-star catcher Thurman Munson, 32, died when his Cessna Citation jet crashed in Ohio in 1979.

With files from the Associated Press