Thursday, January 15, 2009

Plane Crash Hudson River: Jet crashes into Hudson River --

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A US Airways plane en route from LaGuardia airport to Charlotte, N.C., with 151 people on board crashed into the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan Thursday afternoon, sending passengers fleeing for safety in the frigid waters and startling thousands of New Yorkers.

The Federal Aviation Administration said all passengers were rescued safely from the crash.

"The left engine just blew," said passenger Jeff Kolodjay, 31, of Norwalk, Conn., who was in seat 22A. "The pilot said you've got to brace for a hard impact." Kolodjay said passengers hit their heads against the roof when the plane crashed.

Government officials said the plane had hit a flock of birds that disabled two engines, and the federal Department of Homeland Security said there is no apparent link to terrorism.

According to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, the US Airways Flight 1549 had taken off from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, N.C., shortly before 3:30 p.m.

Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on the West Side, said one of the museum's employees saw the plane struggling over the Hudson just north of the museum and thought it was having engine problems.

The plane crashed between 3:44 and 3:48 p.m., federal aviation officials said. The plane went into the water near 48th Street, and was carried south by the outbound tide, White said.

Alberto Panero, a passenger interviewed on CNN, said: "I actually grabbed one of the seats and some people grabbed the inflatable ones. It seemed like immediately there were folks coming to us."

"People were bleeding all over the place," passenger Kolodjay said. "I was scared."

After the crash, Kolodjay said passengers crowded onto the wings, and then people started getting onto life rafts. According to Kolodjay, women and children got onto the rafts first, and then the men did.

Ferry boats and other harbor crafts quickly converged around the partially-submerged aircraft and passengers wearing yellow life vests were sitting in life rafts.

Media reports said people responding on ferries tossed life vests to the plane.

"They threw the jackets to us. At first there was a little bit of panic," Panero said.

Some people quickly took charge, he said.

"Once people realized that we were going to be OK, people calmed down," Panero said.

A federal investigation team was en route to New York Thursday evening.

"We're launching a 'go team' to go out this evening to LaGuardia and to the Hudson River site," said Terry Williams, a spokesman for the National Transporation Safety Board, a federal agency charged with investigating aviation crashes.

NTSB board member Kathryn Higgins will being leading the investigation team, which will include approximately 12 specialists and investigators. She will be holding a news conference at Hangar 6 at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday night.

The jet slowly sank into the river, with just its tail section visible as of 4:40 p.m.

New York City firefighters and other rescue workers are still on the scene; it was not immediately clear if there were injuries. The plane carried 146 passengers and a crew of 5.

"I just thought, 'Why is it so low?' And, splash, it hit the water," said witness Barbara Sambriski, a researcher at The Associated Press.

"I saw what appeared to be a tail fin of a plane sticking out of the water," said Erica Schietinger, whose office windows at Chelsea Piers look out over the Hudson.

"Wow, thank the Lord and thank the pilot," said Alberto Panero, a passenger quoted on CNN. "I can't believe he managed to land the plane safely."

Terry Williams, a spokesman for the National Transporation Safety Board, said they're "launching a 'go team' to go out this evening to LaGuardia and to the Hudson River site."

Thursday's crash bore an eerie resemblance to a September 1989 crash when a USAir flight to Charlotte slid off the end of a LaGuardia runway during takeoff and crashed into the East River.

US Airways officials released an emergency number for family members of people on the plane, 800-679-8215.

amNewYork and The Associated Press contributed to this story