Airbus crashes into the Hudson River off New York

A US Airways Airbus carrying around 150 people on board crashed into the Hudson River off Manhattan, after apparently hitting a flock of geese. Everyone has been safely rescued, airline officials said.


AFP - A US Airways plane carrying 148 passengers and up to six crew crashed into New York's Hudson River Thursday and was sinking into the waters after everyone was safely rescued, US officials said.

Dozens of frantic passengers clustered on the wings of the plane seeking to stay above the rising freezing waters as they were evacuated off the plane onto waiting boats.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said all the people on board had survived and been rescued after flight 1549 crashed shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport in New York on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina.

It confirmed there were 148 passengers and five or six crew on board the ill-fated flight, and said it was an accident which may have been the result of a collision with some birds.

Passenger Alberto Panero told CNN said he heard a loud bang just after take-off from La Guardia.

"The plane shook a bit and immediately, you could smell smoke or fire and immediately, the plane basically just started turning in another direction," he said.

"It didn't seem like it was out of control, we knew something was going on," he said.

"All of a sudden, the captain came on and said, 'Brace for impact,' and that's when we knew we were going down, into the water. And we just hit and somehow the plane, you know, stayed afloat and we were all able to get on the raft and -- it's just incredible right now that everybody's still alive."

"Right now we don't have any indication right now that this was anything other than an accident," the FAA's Laura Brown told reporters, adding there were preliminary reports that birds hit the plane.

Police helicopters hovered over the stricken plane as four large ferries and several smaller boats gathered in the waters nearby. The Coast Guard was dropping life jackets into the water for survivors amid frigid temperatures.

Fire and EMS crews assisted survivors, with one passenger saying there had been elderly people as well as children on board the aircraft.

On a freezing winter's day, water temperatures were estimated at 20 degrees Fahrenheit (six below Celsius) outside and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (four degrees Celsius) in the water, making it a race against time to get everyone off the plane before they could suffer from hypothermia.

Panero told CNN by phone he believed everyone had escaped alive, and had been evacuated from the floating plane.

He said the rescue "boats managed to get right up to the door and you could just literally, in effect, jump off into a boat, never had to go into the water."

"I saw what looked to be a small commercial plane flying south making a gradual landing," witness Ben Vonklemperer told CNN.

"I saw it hit the water. It made a big splash," he said. "I did see it hit the water at a very gradual angle. It appeared not to have landing gear engaged," he said.

"The way they hit it was very gradual. A very slow contact with the water that it made."

The Hudson River crash comes 27 years and two days after an Air Florida Boeing 737-222 airliner crashed into the 14th Street bridge in Washington and plunged into the Potomac River immediately after takeoff in a snow storm on January 13, 1982.

The accident killed 78 people, including four motorists on the bridge.

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