NEW YORK (Reuters) - The pilot of a World War Two-era plane killed in a crash in the Hudson River off Manhattan on Friday evening was trying to execute an emergency landing, the museum that owned the vintage aircraft said.
The P-47 Thunderbolt crashed just south of the George Washington Bridge. The New York Police Department identified a body recovered from the plane as that of William Gordon, 56, of Key West, Florida. Police would not comment on a cause of death.
The American Airpower Museum, which owned the plane, said in a statement on Facebook on Saturday that Gordon was an “extraordinary” aviator who brought the plane down in a “forced emergency landing” on the Hudson.
Gary Lewi, a spokesman for the museum in Farmingdale, New York, told Long Island newspaper Newsday that the aircraft’s engine failed during the flight.
Witnesses told CNN they saw the pilot struggling to get out of the cockpit after the aircraft struck the water.
An investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board is underway.
The FAA said the plane was one of three aircraft that took off from Republic Airport in Farmingdale. The other two safely returned to the airport. Local media reported the planes were flying as part of a promotional shoot.
The crash took place during Fleet Week, a week-long celebration of the U.S. military’s seafaring service members. A dozen police and fire rescue boats adorned with flashing blue lights trawled the river Friday night in a search for the plane.
On Saturday, a boat with a crane hoisted up the plane and carried it to a dock in Lower Manhattan, said Nancy Silvestri, a spokeswoman for the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
The crash occurred near where the pilot of a U.S. Airways jetliner executed a perfect water landing in January 2009 after striking a flock of birds and losing power in both engines. All 155 passengers and crew survived that incident, which was dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
Reporting by Frank McGurty in New York, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Simao