WASHINGTON (AP) - Six months after the fiery plane crash that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, there is scant hard evidence to explain exactly what led to the accident in the heart of New York City.
The 34-year-old right-hander was killed Oct. 11 after finishing the baseball season with the Yankees. His flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, also died when Lidle's plane slammed into a midtown Manhattan high-rise.
The National Transportation Board was to meet Tuesday to review a final report on the accident, but documents show investigators have had surprisingly little to go on.
The global positioning device and cockpit display unit were too badly damaged to reveal any information. There was no cockpit voice recorder because they are not required in small, privately owned planes.
The NTSB has released some preliminary documents, identifying Lidle as the pilot and Stanger the passenger, but the papers provide no proof of who was at the controls of Lidle's Cirrus SR-20 when it crashed.
That issue is critical to the ballplayer's wife and young son, who filed suit against insurer MetLife Inc. claiming she is owed $1 million under Major League Baseball's benefit plan.
That plan, however, contains an exclusion clause for an aircraft incident in which the player is ``acting in any capacity other than as a passenger,'' a phrase that would appear to bar Lidle's family from collecting anything more than the $450,000 basic life insurance benefit.
Lidle and Stanger had departed from a New Jersey airport for a midday trip past the Statue of Liberty and north up the East River. The plane apparently ran into trouble in attempting to turn around and head back south.
After the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily ordered small-fixed wing planes not to fly over the river, which runs along Manhattan's East Side, unless the pilot was in contact with air traffic controllers.
According to NTSB documents, the FAA plans to make that restriction permanent.
Small planes could previously fly below 1,100 feet along the river without filing flight plans or checking in with air traffic control. Lidle's plane had flown between 500 and 700 feet above the river.
The collision and explosion of the plane destroyed several apartments in the building. One resident, a dentist, filed a $7 million lawsuit against the Lidle estate.
The Lidle and Stanger families have filed suit against the manufacturers of the plane and certain components.
At Yankee Stadium, Lidle's locker will remain unoccupied all season, and his widow and 6-year-old son threw out ceremonial first pitches on Opening Day.
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On the Net:
National Transportation Safety Board: http://www.ntsb.gov

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