15 January 2009

Rescue effort after US Airways jet crashes into New York's Hudson River

NEW YORK -- A US Airways plane was down in the Hudson River on Thursday after attempting to take off from LaGuardia Airport, officials said.
The plane entered the water Thursday afternoon following a failed takeoff, the FAA says.

1 of 2 US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320, was headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A passenger said he was "pretty sure" everybody on the plane got out.

"Somehow, the plane stayed afloat and we were all able to get on a raft," said the passenger, Alberto Panero. "It's just incredible now that everyone's still alive."

A New Jersey State Police source told CNN the pilot radioed to air traffic controllers that he had experienced a bird strike -- when a bird or flock of birds is sucked into the jet engine -- and declared an emergency. Watch footage of plane in water »

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown also said preliminary information indicates a bird strike. The plane was in the air for about three minutes before it went down, the FAA said.

U.S. Coast Guard units were responding, and a ferry on site was dropping life jackets into the water.

The New York Times, citing a local TV station, reported that the aircraft had 146 passengers and 5 crew members aboard.

The pilot tried to return to the airport when the plane fell into the Hudson, the Times reported. The Times said it was below 20 degrees in New York at the time the plane went down.

A couple of minutes after takeoff, "we just heard a loud bang," Panero said.

"The plane shook a bit and ... you could smell smoke and fire and immediately the plane started turning," Panero said. "All of a sudden, the captain came on and said, 'Brace for landing,' and that's when we knew we were going down."

The plane approached the water at a gradual angle and made a big splash, according to a witness watching from an office building.

"It wasn't going particularly fast. It was a slow contact with the water that it made," said the witness, Ben Vonklemperer.

"It appeared not to have landing gear engaged. This was bigger than a puddle-jumper or sea plane. It was a silver aircraft and it basically just hit the water," Vonklemperer added.

An Airbus A320 can hold a maximum of 179 passengers and a flight crew of two, depending on the configuration.

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