US Airways jet down in NY river, passengers rescued

Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:42pm EST

1 of 6. Passengers stand on the wings of a U.S. Airways plane after it landed in the Hudson River in New York, January 15, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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By Edith Honan and Claudia Parsons about 150 people on board came down into the frigid Hudson River off Manhattan after apparently hitting a flock of geese on Thursday and officials said everyone was rescued.

Rescued passengers said they believed everyone had survived the crash, which left the Airbus A320 intact and floating in the river.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating reports that the plane hit a flock of birds after taking off from New York's LaGuardia airport and fell into the river on a freezing winter day.

An FAA spokeswoman said: "We've confirmed everyone got off."

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."

Another rescued passenger, Alberto Panero, told CNN, "I'm pretty sure everyone got off ... It's just incredible that everyone's alive."

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, some wearing yellow life vests, before police boats arrived.

"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," said Thomson Reuters employee Alex Whittaker who was in a 22nd floor meeting room at the company's Times Square building.

"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.

Flight 1549 was headed for Charlotte, North Carolina.

US Airways said in a statement it was investigating the incident. The FAA said the plane was an Airbus A320 with 148 passengers and four or five crew.

(Writing by Mark Egan, reporting by Claudia Parsons and Brendan McDermid; Editing by David Storey)

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