A flock of Canada geese are suspected of being the culprits that blew out the engines of US Airways Flight 1549, leading to the dramatic emergency landing on the Hudson Thursday, survived by all 150 passengers and five crew members on board.
Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is being hailed for his "heroic" handling of the emergency and for maintaining his composure as he safely glided the crippled Airbus 320 into the Hudson River just off West 48th Street in Manhattan, ultimately saving the lives of everyone on the flight.
The jetliner went down about three minutes after takeoff at 3:26 p.m. from LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, NC. The pilot had radioed in a "double bird strike" and warned the passengers to "brace for impact" seconds before bringing the plane down.
Rescue ferries were on the scene quickly, plucking passengers from the frigid water, from life rafts, and from a wing of the aircraft. Emergency respondents from the Coast Guard, NYPD, FDNY, New York Waterways, Circle Line, the Red Cross, Port Authority police and others -- are being praised for their efforts in coordinating such a swift and remarkable rescue operation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded certificates to honor first responders at a City Hall ceremony Friday.
"We're forever grateful for the pilot and for all the wonderful people who helped us," passenger Martin Sosa told NBC's TODAY show Friday morning. Sosa was on the flight with his wife and two children.
The most severe of the survivors' injuries was a fractured leg. Many passengers were treated for mild hypothermia and for exposure to the bitter cold water and surface temperatures, but there were no life-threatening cases. Some passengers were treated at nearby emergency staging areas; several were able to walk away from the scene unscathed.
Some evacuaees were taken to treatment centers in New Jersey and some to area hospitals in New York, including St. Vincent's and St. Luke's-Roosevelt. A day later, many were continuing on with their plans, departing the city, and reuniting with loved ones.
Photo by jkrums (Janis Krums), posted on Twitter, January 15, 2009, with the comment: "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy."
The NTSB is continuing its investigation, and the plane, which was moored at Battery Park, was expected to be lifted from the water Saturday morning. Meanwhile, the search for the aircraft's two engines continues.
Mayor Bloomberg said a key to the city awaits Captain Sullenberger, who he praised for doing "a masterful job." Not only did the captain ditch the plane successfully, he also walked the length of the plane twice to check for passengers before leaving the aircraft himself. As shown on his resume, Captain Sullenberger has 40 years of aviation experience; credentials include 19,000 hours of logged flight time as well as certifications as a glider pilot and flight instructor.
"I believe...we've had a miracle on the Hudson," said Gov. David Paterson in a press conference hours after the crash-landing, calling the pilot "heroic" for his actions that saved himself and everyone on the flight.
View from Pier 84 at West 44th Street, day after the crash. Photo by Elise Rosen, January 16, 2009
On Friday afternoon, all appeared calm and quiet on the Hudson looking north from Pier 84, where the Intrepid is perched, with no sign of the frenzied scene on the water a day earlier.