×

US Airways Plane Goes Down in Hudson River; All Rescued

A US Airways jetliner crashed into the frigid Hudson River off New York City on Thursday afternoon after a suspected collision with a flock of birds, sending more than 150 passengers and crew members scrambling into rescue boats, authorities said.

All passengers have been safely removed from the plane and no serious injuries were immediately known. However, a number of people were taken to New York area hospitals for treatment.

usairways_crash2.jpg

US Airways confirmed that Flight 1549 from LaGuardia airport was involved in an accident. The plane departed for Charlotte, N.C., at 3:03 p.m. New York time.

"Our preliminary report is that everyone is off the plane and accounted for," said Chairman and Chief Executive Doug Parker, in a press conference.

"It is premature to speculate about the cause of this accident," Parker said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating reports that the Airbus A320 plane hit a flock of birds after taking off from New York's LaGuardia airport.

The pilot, who was flying an Airbus 320, reported hitting a flock of geese, which led to him having difficulty managing the plane, and ultimately made the decision to go down into the river, according to federal officials.

The plane was submerged in the icy waters with a temperature of less than 20 degrees up to the windows as the rescued occurred. Rescue crews had opened the door and were pulling passengers in yellow life vests from the plane.

"Every type of craft that floats was going to the scene," Tom Fox, President of New York Water Taxi, told CNBC.

  • To watch footage of the initial rescue, click here.

Among the 150 passengers and five crew members on board were 23 Bank of America employees and an investment banker from Wachovia. Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, said all of its employees were accounted for and having their needs met.

"I was standing looking at the plane coming and I said this plane is way too low," said Rachel Leeder, a New York resident, who lives on the Hudson River, told CNBC. "It was just coming down like it was going to land."

A passenger told Reuters there was what sounded like an explosion a few minutes after takeoff.

"The engine blew. There was fire everywhere and it smelled like gas," Jeff Kolodjay, from Norwalk, Connecticut, told Reuters on a midtown Manhattan quay.

"People were bleeding all over. We hit the water pretty hard. It was scary."

  • To listen to an eyewitness, watch this video

"You gotta give it to the pilot, he made a hell of a landing," he said, visibly shaken from his experience. The pilot brought the plane down in a cloud of spray in the fast moving river, which runs to the West of Manhattan island.

Another rescued passenger, Alberto Panero, told CNN, "It's just incredible that everyone's alive."

"We do not believe that there are any serious injuries," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference early Thursday evening. "It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everyone got out."

As many as eight ferries and local water taxi services rushed to rescue passengers, some of whom lined up on the half-submerged plane's wings wearing yellow life vests, before police boats arrived.

Injured Take to Area Hospitals

At St. Luke's Roosevelt hospital in midtown Manhattan, patients arrived with one elderly couple still wearing their life preservers. A hospital spokesman said he expected as many as 50 patients with exposure and secondary injuries with more serious injuries being sent to nearby hospitals.

  • To hear the reaction of an aviation Expert, click here

Thomson Reuters employee Alex Whittaker who was in a 22nd floor meeting room at the company's Times Square building, said, "I saw the plane coming in very low but under control, it splashed down in the water. Once it cleared it was still floating on its belly.

usairways_crash.jpg

"The doors opened and we could see life rafts and we could just about see a few people climbing out onto the water," he said.

Nick Prisco was driving on the highway by the river when he saw the incident and pulled over.

Like many in a city that lived through the 9/11 attacks, the sight of a plane flying so low immediately revived for him memories of the attack by hijacker airliners in 2001. "It was bizarre, it was surreal. I thought it was a terrorist attack," he told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington said there were no indications that this incident was a result of a terrorist attack.

- Reuters contributed to this report.