Passengers, crew escape jet after Hudson River landing

Officials call emergency landing a "miracle" as disaster responders help everyone off plane.

BY VICKI DESORMIER | NEW YORK | January 16, 2009

A US Airways commuter jet with 148 passengers and five crew members aboard crashed into the icy waters of the Hudson River in New York City on Thursday afternoon after taking off from LaGuardia Airport just a few minutes before. According to officials there did not appear to be any fatalities or serious injuries.

The Airbus 320, which was headed for Charlotte NC, may have hit one or more birds, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in the water near midtown Manhattan.

New York City firefighters and the US Coast Guard were helping passengers off of the plane, which was, at first, floating in about 50 feet of water with water up to the windows. The doors were forced open so the passengers could be evacuated. Once outside, they stood on the wings to be picked up by city, state and Coast Guard boats which had encircled the plane.

While the investigation into the cause of the crash have barely begun, spokesman Laura Brown of the Federal Aviation Administration, said it appears that a flock of geese may have flown into the plane, causing both engines to fail. The pilot appears to have been trying to return to the airport in Queens when he was forced to put the plane down in the river.

"Witnesses indicate that the pilot guided the plane down with the landing gear down," Brown said.

She said she did not believe the crash was anything but an accident. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have also issued statements that state they do not believe the crash was an act of terrorism.

Maryann Darlak of the American Red Cross in Greater New York said her organization sent out 700 blankets to make sure those rescued from the crash were able to get a little warmth in the immediate aftermath of the rescue from the 41 degree water. With the air temperature at about 20 degrees, the damp crash victims had to be kept as warm as possible.

"Of course, that's only the first step," she said. "We're now working with the New York City Police and Fire departments, the OEM (Office of Emergency Management) and the Coast Guard who are right there on the scene to see what needs to be done next."

She said other relief organizations are waiting for the Red Cross to put out the word and that they will move in where they are most needed.

Judy Bezon, assistant director for Children's Disaster Services of Brethren Disaster Ministries, said her response teams are ready to go at a moment's notice.  If the Brethren Disaster team gets a call from the Red Cross in New York City, she said, they are already packed and ready to go.

"We are ready to head out as soon as the Red Cross puts out the call," she said. "We are monitoring the situation through the Red Cross and the media. We are aware of the situation and ready to go."

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