As the US Airways plane hit
the frigid waters of the Hudson River, emergency crews were
already headed to the scene. And the swift, dramatic
response had an amazing result: All the 155 people aboard
were pulled to safety.
Commuter ferries also sprang into action from New York and
New Jersey, and their crews encountered freezing, panicked
passengers — some of whom let out cheers when the boats
"We had to pull an elderly woman
out of a raft in a sling. She was crying. ... People were
panicking. They said, 'Hurry up, hurry up,'" said Vincent
Lombardi, captain of the first boat to get to the plane, the
Thomas Jefferson. "We gave them the jackets off our backs."
The fire department in New York got the first emergency call at
3:31 p.m. and was on the scene in less than five minutes. NY
Waterway ferries shuttling passengers to and from New Jersey
deployed within moments.
In total, 14 vessels responded to the scene, with crews trained
to respond to people overboard.
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Across the river, Weehawken, N.J.,
police, firefighters and emergency medical crews boarded ferries
awaiting rush hour and headed to the plane, minutes after the
pilot heroically guided the jet into the water after the engine
The ferries pulled up slowly to avoid washing passengers off the
plane with the wake. Some passengers were already standing on
the wing as Lombardi came alongside the sinking plane, which was
moving swiftly down the river. Other passengers were in
Lombardi's crew rescued 56 passengers.
Brittany Catanzaro, captain of the Thomas Kean, pulled 24 people
aboard with her crew.
Meanwhile, detectives John McKenna and James Coll — members of
an elite emergency police team — commandeered a sightseeing
ferry at 42nd Street and headed to scene.
As the vessel arrived at the sinking fuselage, Sgt. Michael
McGuinness and Detective Sean Mulcahy tied ropes around
themselves that were also tied to their colleagues. They stayed
on board as McKenna and Coll entered the plane to rescue four
other passengers still inside.
Firefighters responded by boat and collected other passengers.
They also anchored the plane with ropes to keep it from sinking
or drifting away with the current.
High above, divers Michael Delaney and Robert Rodriguez of the
New York Police Department dropped from a helicopter into the
water. Fom the air, Delaney said, "it all looked very orderly.
The plane's crew appeared to do a great job."
Both divers spotted a woman in the water, hanging onto the side
of a ferry boat and "frightened out of her mind," Rodriguez
said. "She's very lethargic."
"I see panic out of this woman," Rodriguez said. "She's very
cold, so she's unable to climb up."
The two pulled another female passenger from the water as other
passengers sat calmly on the plane's flotation devices, waiting
to board the ferries clustered nearby.
Both divers climbed onto the wing and entered the plane and
confirmed everyone was off.
One victim suffered two broken legs, a paramedic said, but there
were no other reports of serious injuries. Fire officials said
at least half the people on board were evaluated for
hypothermia, bruises and other minor injuries.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson heaped praise on
the rescue effort.
"They train for these kinds of emergencies, and you saw it in
action," Bloomberg said. "Because of their fast brave work, we
think that contributed to the fact that it looks like everybody
Paterson said it was a miracle.
"I think that in simplicity, this is really a potential tragedy
that may have become one of the most spectacular days in the
history of New York City's agencies," he said.