US Airways jet crashes in Hudson
Rescue workers help passengers from plane
(updated 4:51 p.m. ET, Thurs., Jan. 15, 2009)
NEW YORK - A US Airways plane crashed into the frigid Hudson River on Thursday afternoon after striking birds that disabled two engines, sending 150 on board scrambling onto rescue boats, authorities say. No deaths or serious injuries were immediately reported.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the US Airways Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport enroute to Charlotte, N.C., when the crash occurred in the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan.
Brown said the plane, an Airbus 320, appeared to have hit one or more birds.
A law enforcement official said that authorities were not aware of any deaths and that the passengers did not appear to be seriously injured. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the rescue was still under way.
NBC News, citing local law enforcement, said that all of the 148 passengers and five or six crew members were off the plane.
A passenger who identified himself as Jeff told NBC News the engines blew about 3 minutes into the flight. "Fire started blowing up," he said. "I thought we would be able to circle around, but the captain said 'brace for impact.' ... I think the captain did a helluva job."
The plane was submerged in the icy waters up to the windows. Rescue crews had opened the door and were pulling passengers in yellow life vests from the plane. Several boats surrounded the plane, which appeared to be slowly sinking.
Government officials do not believe the crash is related to terrorism. "There is no information at this time to indicate that this is a security-related incident," Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. "We continue to closely monitor the situation which at present is focused on search and rescue."
Witnesses said the plane's pilot appeared to guide the plane down. "I see a commercial airliner coming down, looking like it's landing right in the water," said Bob Read, who saw it from his office at the television newsmagazine "Inside Edition." "This looked like a controlled descent."
New York City firefighters and the U.S. Coast Guard helped rescued the passengers. "I saw what appeared to be a tail fin of a plane sticking out of the water," said Erica Schietinger, whose office windows at Chelsea Piers look out over the Hudson. "All the boats have sort of circled the area."
“The plane flew through a flock of birds and both engines were damaged. That’s all we know right now,” said Dave Steyer, a technician with the wildlife research office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which helps the FAA study what it calls bird strikes.
Worldwide, crashes of more than 25 large aircraft were caused by bird strikes since 1960, according to a published study by Richard Dolbeer, a retired ornithologist with the Department of Agriculture at the Wildlife Services in Sandusky, Ohio. In 23 of these incidents, the strike occurred below 400 feet.
In the U.S., the FAA tracked more than 38,000 bird strikes from 1990 to 2004, according to a study by Dolbeer. He used data from the FAA's National Wildlife Strike Database for Civil Aviation. He concluded that management of birds should focus on the airport environment.
Individuals who believe they may have family members on board flight 1549 may call US Airways at 1-800-679-8215 within the United States.