Passengers stood on the wings of a US Airways plane after it crash landed in the Hudson River on Thursday
January 16, 2009
Jet Ditches in Hudson; All Are Said Safe
By LIZ ROBBINS
A US Airways jetliner with 148 passengers and 5 crew members plunged into the icy Hudson River on Thursday afternoon five minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, and a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said everyone on board escaped safely.
Moments after the plane, a twin jet Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., landed on the river near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, at least a half-dozen small craft rushed to aircraft to rescue the freezing passengers and crew.
According to the Fire Department of New York, initial reports from the aviation agency said they thought that a flock of birds had hit the engine and caused the crash.
“It made this huge, gigantic splash, and I actually thought it was a boat crash at first,” said 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 frigid Hudson.
He said that a co-worker watched with binoculars as the people on board made their way onto both of the plane’s wings.
“The plane was totally intact,” Mr. Duckworth said. “Everybody thought it was a sea plane. I kept trying to tell them no.”
“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 drfited (spelling!)
downstream, it’s (sic--come on, NYT, "it's"???)
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 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.
Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the F.A.A., said the plane took off from Runway 4, made a left turn after takeoff, which is standard procedure, and moments later crashed into the Hudson.
Port Imperial Ferry, which operates between Manhattan and Weehawken, shut down service during the rescue operation.
The temperature outside was only 20 degrees, with a wind chill of 10 degrees; the Hudson River temperatures are in the mid-30s at this time of year.
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.
Matthew L. Wald, Tina Kelly and Al Baker contributed reporting from New York, and Micheline Maynard from Detroit.