Hudson River US Airways jet crash-lands, TERRORIST?

Passengers stand on the wings of a U.S. Airways plane after it crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York. The Airbus carrying more than 150 passengers and crew

reportedly struck a flock of birds after taking off from LaGuardia Airport.
Flight 1549 carried more than 150 passengers and crew. The plane traveling to Charlotte, N.C., apparently lost power after hitting a flock of birds.
By Geraldine Baum and Michael Muskal
2:54 PM PST, January 15, 2009
Reporting from Los Angeles and New York -- A US Airways plane apparently hit some birds and was forced to crash-land in the icy waters of New York's Hudson River this afternoon, but all of the more than 150 passengers and crew survived.
"My understanding is that everybody is alive, but don't I know if there are any serious injuries or not," said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown. "There are no passengers remaining on the plane."
A US Airways flight from LaGuardia Airport in New York went down in the Hudson River this afternoon with 155 passengers and crew on board, and rescuers moved quickly to remove everyone from the plane as it gradually settled into the frigid water.

Authorities said there were no fatalities and that all aboard got off safely.

Flight 1549, an Airbus A320, appeared to make a controlled landing in the water shortly after takeoff from New York bound for Charlotte, N.C.

Television news footage showed the aircraft resting apparently intact in the water as ferries and rescue vessels surrounded it and helicopters flew overhead.

Inflatable boats were deployed to carry passengers from the plane to the nearby vessels.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, Laura Brown, said, "My understanding is that everyone is alive. I don't know if there are any serious injuries or not."

Brown said the plane appeared to have hit one or more birds on takeoff. Initial accounts indicated the airliner lost both engines.

"We understand there were eyewitness reports that the plane might have flown into a flock of birds," Brown said.

But Ellen Howe, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, confirmed only that there was "no known nexus to terrorism" in the downing.

A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, Laura Keehner said, "There is no information at this time to indicate that this is a security-related incident. We continue to closely monitor the situation, which at present is focused on search and rescue."

Alberto Panero, a passenger on the plane, told CNN in a telephone interview that everyone on the plane was "pretty much okay" after the impact.

"This was a near-death experience that thankfully did not turn out that way," he said.

January 15, 2009, 3:48 pm
Latest Updates on Hudson Jet Rescue
By Ken Belson

[Refresh this post for continuing live blog updates. Please also see complete coverage on]

6:20 p.m. | The news conference has concluded. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said most of the passengers did not even touch the frigid Hudson. “There were a few that I talked to that went into the water,” he said. “Most I gather either stepped directly form the plane onto a boat, or onto the wings and then onto a boat, so most were not soaking wet.”

He said there was no indication of terrorism or sabotage, but that the details of what caused the accident would have to await the lengthy investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“There’s never anything that’s done quickly when they investigate plane incidents, and that’s something that should give you pleasure,” he said. “It does not seem to be anything other than an accident or something natural.” He added: “The specualtion about birds or something else is something we’ll leave to the National Transportation Safety Board.”

“If it was going to have to happen,” the mayor concluded, “this outcome is as good as you could ever hope and pray for.” He said he would not be afraid to have his daughters flying in airplanes tonight.

Mr. Bloomberg noted that the plane did not quickly fill with water, as the pilot was able to walk up and back the aisle, checking for passengers left behind. Two police officers also boarded and searched for passsengers, and by that time some water had entered the plane. By 5:45 p.m., Mr. Bloomberg said, the plane remained intact and afloat, near Battery Park.

As for the pilot’s account, that, too, would have to wait. “He did not talk about what he did other than to help us ascertain that everybody got off,” the mayor said.

6:12 p.m. | Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. David A. Paterson called a news conference at the Hudson pier. Mayor Bloomberg said that it appeared that all 155 passengers and crew, including an infant, had survived the crash, with few injuries, and that the pilot had done “a masterful job.”

“We are trying to verify every single perosn that was on that boat and make sure that they are accounted for but there is no reason to believe at the moment that this wasnt something that we should thank God for that everyone got out safely,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Gov. David A. Paterson, speaking at the same news confernece, called it nothing short of a miracle.
“We’ve had a miracle on 34th Street, I believe now we’ve had a miracle on the Hudson,” Mr. Paterson said. “This pilot, somehow, without any engines, was somehow able to land this plane, and perhaps without any injuries to the passengers.”

“This is a potential tragedy that may have become one of the most magnificent days in the history of New York City agencies,” Governor Paterson added.

The mayor and the governor said they had spoken to several of the survivors, including the pilot.

“He walked the plane twice after everyody else got off,” Mayor Bloomberg said of the pilot, whom he did not name.

Governor Paterson said he spoke with a retired police officer from Charlotte, N.C., who was on the plane, and the officer said that “he’d participated in these types of rescues and he’d never seen anything this magnificent.” Another told Mr. Paterson that his brother was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “He is no stranger to tragedy,” Mr. Paterson said, “but he’s a very blessed person today.”

The mayor said that a few people were taken to hospitals in both New Jersey and New York, including some who asked to go, and that they were in stable condition although details of the injuries remain unclear.

Mr, Bloomberg said he had spoken to the mayor of Charlotte and offered to but him talked to mayor of Charlotte and offered to buy him a drink. “I pointed out this is not normally the way people arrive in New YOrk City,” he said. “But as long as everybody got out safely i think everything else is secondary.”

As for the rescue, he said the fire department, police department and Port authority police had worked in coordination, as they train to do, with air support from the state. “Everything did seem to work as well as you would hope it would work,” the mayor said.

5:50 p.m. | The following is the statement made by Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of U.S. Airways, about the plane crash in the Hudson River, as transcribed by The Times. Mr. Parker was speaking at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix.

I can confirm U.S. Airways Flight 1549 was involved in an accident. The Airbus A320 was en route to Charlotte from La Guardia. It had 150 passengers on board. The flight was operated with a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants. U.S. Airways is confirming passenger and crew names and will issue those as soon as possible. At this point no additional details can be confirmed. Our preliminary report is that everyone is off the plane and accounted for.

We’ve activated our U.S. Airways care team of specially trained employee volunteers to assist those affected by this accident. Individuals who believe they may have family members on board Flight 1549 may call U.S. Airways at 1-800-679-8215 within the United States. The number can be reached toll free from international locations through AT&T’s U.S.A. Direct. To contact an AT&T operator please visit for U.S.A. Direct access codes. Others are asked please not to call this number so the lines can be kept available for those who truly need them.

It’s premature to speculate about the cause of this accident. Out of respect for those affected we would ask that you also resist the temptation to speculate.

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the probable cause with our complete support and the support of many others. Further, we are working with and will continue to cooperate fully with the N.T.S.B., local, state and national authorities and answers will emerge during the course of that investigation.

Right now we’re working to care for those who have been touched by this accident. Members of our airline family will come together with these families to help however we can. I am on my way to New York shortly.

In closing, safety is, has been and forever will be our foremost priority at U.S. Airways. All of us at U.S. Airways are committed to determining the cause of this event and to assisting in every way possible in preventing a similar occurrence.

U.S. Airways will continue to release information as it becomes available. Please monitor for the latest information.

5:48 p.m. | Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other officials are expected to take questions at a news conference at Pier 81 on the Hudson at 6 p.m.

5:45 p.m. | A US Airways plane that took off Thursday at 3:26 p.m. from La Guardia Airport plunged into the Hudson River five minutes later, but all 153 people on board were rescued, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The plane itself remains nearly submerged. Ferries and other boats converged to help with a rescue effort, as the plane drifted south in the water. Initial reports from police and people at the scene are that everyone on the plane escaped.

The plane, US Airways flight 1549, took off from LaGuardia Airport at 3:26 p.m. was bound for Charlotte, N.C., and had 148 passengers and 5 crew members. The plane headed north and rose to 3,200 feet before banking west towards the Hudson River. The plane then started descending as it headed south down the Hudson River. The pilot tried to return to the airport when the plane fell into the river.

A bird or several birds entered engines on both sides of the plane, or a “double bird” in the jargon of safety workers. It is not clear when or where the plane hit the birds.

A small flotilla of boats descended on the site, including several commuter ferries as well as the Coast Guard Cutter Ridley to help rescue passengers on the plane, an Airbus A320. New York Police Department divers dove into the water to assist with the rescue as plane floated southbound on the river, possibly due to the tidal direction.

“Someone came into my office and said a plane crashed,” said Tom Fox, general manager of New York Water Taxi, “and we ran out the door.”

Fox rode out to within several hundred yards of the plane on one of three Waterways boats that responded, but authorities indicated that additional help was not needed, apparently because most of the people had already been rescued.

At 4:52 p.m., a city official at one of the command centers, at Fire Department headquarters in Brooklyn said, “Everyone is accounted for, they are all out of the plane. They are going to New Jersey and New York, to three different piers. We don’t believe we have any fatalities.”

The official said that many patients are getting triage and medical assessment at the scene. The official said that they had been taken to area hospitals. Some people have been taken to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital.

Also, about 40 or 50 people were at Weehawken, New Jersey, the official said.
crash map

Shortly before 4 p.m., a New York Waterways ferry pulled into Pier 79 at 39th Street and 12th Avenue and, led by a man wrapped only in a blanket, about 15 passengers from the airplane were escorted into the ferry terminal. No one was carrying any belongings.

“They look amazingly calm, but I bet their hearts are racing,” said Bob Grindrod, of Syracuse, who was waiting to board a ferry for New Jersey.

The divers were dropped into the water from helicopters overhead, police officials said. Some passengers were able to free themselves from the plane. They could be seen on the exterior in televised reports.

One passenger interviewed on WNBC said that the pilot told everyone on board to brace for a hard landing. Passengers started saying prayers before the plane hit the water. The passenger, who said he saw the left engine blow out, added that it was “kind of orderly” getting off the plane.

Some passengers being plucked from the frigid water were being taken to the Circle Line piers nearby at West 42nd Street. It was less than 20 degrees Farenheit in New York City at the time. Fire and police rescue crews were rushing to the water.

One witness interviewed by WNBC said he saw the plane descending steadily without its landing gear down.

The plane was almost totally submerged at 4:22 p.m., as sunlight ran out. The plane is just across from the Old Marine terminal at Pier 57. All of it was submerged except for the cockpit at that point, at 4:22 p.m. and is midway between New York and New Jersey.

An official in a boat at the scene, said, “It just looks like the very front of the aircraft. The nose; the cockpit, and the left wing. A portion of the left wing. It is just the nose and the cockpit bobbing out of the water, and the rest of it is submerged under the river. The left wing is also visible.”

“As far as we believe there is no one on board,” the official said.

New Yorkers in apartments and office towers up and down the west side of Manhattan saw the plane descend.

Fulmer Duckworth, 41, who does computer graphics for the Bank of America, was meeting with his boss on the 29th floor of the building at West 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue when he saw the plane hit the water. “It made this huge, gigantic splash, and I actually thought it was a boat crash at first,” he said. “It didn’t occur to me that it was a plane in the water.”

He saw it spin counterclockwise in the water, and going with the current. When it landed, it was heading south, down the Hudson, but before it floated out of his sight it was facing east, he said.

After a co-worker found a pair of binoculars, he looked out the window and saw people standing on both of the plane’s wings, and a flotation device, a round boat, attached to the plane.

He estimated 70 or 80 people were on the wings. “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. Everyone was standing right up against each other on the wings.”

He said the plane floated for two or three minutes before it started to sink.

Susan Obel, a retiree who lives on West 70th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, in a 20th floor apartment, saw the plane flying unusually low.

“When you see a plane somewhere that it isn’t supposed to be, you get that eerie feeling,” Ms. Odel said. “I didn’t think it was a terrorist, but I did worry. I didn’t hear anything, but then I hung up and my friend called me a few minutes later and told me to turn on the T.V.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has set up a family center at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near LaGuardia Airport. Air traffic officials said they have resumed flights in and out of LaGuardia.

The last fatal crash of a scheduled airliner flight in this country was in Lexington, Ky., on Aug. 27, 2006, nearly 30 months ago.

Refresh this blog post for continuing live updates.

Read a news article with links to complete NYTimes coverage.

MSNBC has live video of the scene.

We would like to hear from witnesses who saw the plane go down. Call our Metro Desk editorial assistants at (212) 556-1533.

Anyone with images of the crash and rescue is asked to Please note: The images must be in the JPEG (*.jpg) format and no larger than 5 MB. By sending in your photograph(s) to The New York Times you agree that we may use your image(s) in all manner and media of The New York Times and, that you have all necessary rights (including copyright, trademark and other proprietary rights) to make the image available to us for all such uses, and you agree to the rules of our Member Agreement found online.

Al Baker, Jim Dwyer, Kevin Flynn, Tina Kelley, Jodi Rudoren and Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting.

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