All 155 Escape Jet’s Plunge Into Hudson
Moments after the plane, a twin jetAirbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., crashed into the river, at least a half-dozen small craft converged on the crippled aircraft and rescued the freezing passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants.
“It would appear the pilot did a masterful job of landing in the river and making sure everybody got out,” MayorMichael R. Bloomberg said at an early evening news conference. “I had a long conversation with the pilot, he walked the plane twice and made sure that everybody was out.”
Some of the passengers were taken to hospitals in New York and New Jersey, and several were treated for hypothermia after being plucked from the wings of the aircraft. It was one of the coldest days of the year in New York City, with the air temperature in the 20s and water temperature about 40 degrees.
A spokeswoman for the F.A.A., Laura J. Brown, said that a flock of birds might have been sucked into the jet engines, but several aircraft manufacturers said such occurrences are rare.
The two engines on the plane were manufactured by CFM International, a joint venture operated by General Electric and Snecma, a company based in France. A spokeswoman for CFM said she did not know the age of the engines or whether they had been involved in previous incidents.
Stunned and shivering passengers who were rescued from the jetliner described a frightening scene in the three minutes from takeoff to a hard landing into the river, and then a surprisingly controlled exit from the partly submerged aircraft.
Jeff Kolodjay, 31, who was traveling with his father and a brother and was seated over the left wing, said he heard the left engine blow.
"The left engine just blew and there were flames,” Mr. Kolodjay said. “It started smelling a lot like gasoline. The pilot got on and said, ‘You guys got to brace for a hard impact.’ That’s when everyone started to say their prayers. I got to give it to the pilot, he did a hell of a landing.”
Alberto Panero, another passenger, told CNN: “Within a couple of minutes all of a sudden you just heard a loud bang, and the plane shook a bit and immediately you could smell smoke, like fire. Although it didn’t seem like it was out of control we knew something was going on because we were turning back.”
Mr. Panero added: “We just hit, and somehow the plane just stayed afloat and we were able to get on the raft and, it’s just incredible right now that everyone’s still alive.”
Mr. Kolodjay said that the plane started taking on water soon after it hit the river. “It was filled up to our waist by the time we got off,” he said.
Accounts from witnesses, including those on the Weehawken Ferry who aided in the rescue, were equally gripping.
David Watta, a 42-year old vice president of Product Management at Shermans Travel Media, was heading home on the first ferry to reach the plane.
Mr. Watta said in a telephone interview that his ferry was diverted to the plane after about two minutes out of port.
"A lot of people were in shock, and a lot of people were freezing,” he said. “They loaded about fifty onto the boat, and we gave them our coats to warm them up and tried to comfort them. We were holding people, hugging them, reassuring them, holding there hands, warming them with our body heat. We tried to take them to the back of the ferry which was warmer because it was furthest from the entrance.
He added: “We provided cell phones so they could call loved ones, a lot of them were so cold that they couldn’t dial so we dialed for them. I would say that everyone on the ferry were heroes for the day, they were all civilians who stepped up in a time of need to help their fellow citizens.”
Ms. Brown of the F.A.A. said the plane took off from Runway 4 at LaGuardia, made a left turn after takeoff, which is standard procedure, and moments later glided to an unexpected stop on the icy, gray Hudson.
Port Imperial Ferry, which operates between Manhattan and Weehawken, shut down service during the rescue operation.
Coast Guard personnel rushed to the scene, from the stations in New York and Sandy Hook, N.J. In addition there were four helicopters dispatched from Atlantic City.
Most witnesses on the Manhattan side of the Hudson recalled an eerie sight of a plane flying too low over the Hudson River, sending chilling reminders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
All 155 Escape Jet’s Plunge Into Hudson
Fulmer Duckworth, 41, an employee at the Bank of America who watched the incident unfold from the 29th floor of his building at West 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue. “It didn’t occur to me that it was a plane in the water.”
Mr. Duckworth said he saw the plane spin counterclockwise in the water, and then begin drifting down the river with the current. The plane had taken off at 3:26 p.m., and the tide was on its way out, pulling the downed craft south down the river as the number of blinking red lights on the river and the shoreline multiplied.
“Actually it looked like everybody was really calm, like on the subway platform when it’s really, really crowded, and everyone’s standing shoulder to shoulder,” he said. “Everyone was standing right up against each other on the wings.”
Witnesses said the plane, described by the manufacturer as a medium-range jetliner, floated for two or three minutes before it started to sink as it drifted downstream, its nose poking up.
“It didn’t break up at all,” Mr. Duckworth said. “Everything you could see looked perfectly intact, like you could take it out of the water and fly it.
Another witness, Matt Mireles, who sent an e-mail message to The New York Times, said that from the window of his Upper West Side apartment he saw white smoke trailing from the left engine shortly before it glided onto the icy gray water.
The Airbus has sold nearly 3,600 airplanes in the A320 series since it was introduced in 1988. There have been 19 major accidents and 631 fatalities. There have also been 33 non-fatal accidents involving engine failures, nose gear problems and minor collisions.
At the airport in Charlotte, where the flight was scheduled to arrive at 5:16 p.m. and then depart for Seattle at 6:10, the arrival board said the plane was still expected to arrive on time late into the afternoon.
But it would not.
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