All Pulled to Safety after US Airways Crash

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Officials say it's a miracle all 155 passengers on a US Airways flight from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, N.C. survived, Thursday. 

A bird collision apparently caused the plane's engines to fail, but the pilot and rescue crews were both quick to respond.

"I believe now we've had a miracle on the Hudson," New York Gov. David Paterson said, praising all those involved in the effort. "This is a potential tragedy that may have become one of the most magnificent days in the history of New York City agencies."

Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia at 3:30 p.m. It had only been in the air about six minutes before going down in the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan, Federal Aviation Administration officials said.

Click play to watch CBN News Reporter Lori Johnson's report as seen on Newswatch 4:15 p.m. ET.  Stay tuned for more updates throughout the night.   Click here to watch more footage of the rescue operations.

Witnesses praised the pilot, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, for remaining calm and in control the entire time.

"He was phenomenal," pasenger Joe Hart said.  "He landed it... Both engines cut out, and he actually floated it into the river."

By 4:40 p.m. the jet had sank into the river with only its tail section visible.  The plane had been completely evacuated well before then.

An 'Incredible' Effort

Passenger Alberto Pinero thanked God that the plane was able to land safely. He said the impact felt more like a "car crash" and that for the most part everyone remained calm.

"Somehow, the plane stayed afloat and we were all able to get on a raft," he said. "It's just incredible now that everyone's still alive."

Rescue boats and ferries arrived on the scene almost immediately. Pinero said some boats were able to get all the way up to front plane entrance, and passengers could get off without touching the frigid waters.

New York residents reported seeing the plane on its way down.  Thinking back to Sept. 11, some feared the worst, but the FBI quickly issued a statement saying the crash was not linked to terrorism.

"It wasn't going particularly fast. It was a slow contact with the water that it made," witness Ben Vonklemperer said.

Another witness described the landing as "smooth," just like the pilot was landing on a runway.

History of Bird Strikes

Sullenberger reported a "double bird strike" to air traffic control just before his plane went down, and that seems to be the cause of the crash.

FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said planes do hit birds "from time to time" but that a resulting crash has not been reported in several years.  When they do occur, she added, it's usually with smaller aircrafts.

The group reports about one strike for every 1,000 flights.

Since 2000, at least 486 planes have collided with birds-- 166 leading to emergency landings and 66 resulting in aborted takeoffs. The earliest known fatal airplane crash involving a bird was in 1912 off Long Beach, Calif. 

Airports do the best they can to keep birds away by reducing trees and other vegetation near runways.  Plane manufacturers are also advancing engine technology to withstand the impact of a bird at such high speeds.

Sources: Associated Press, CNN, ABC, New York Times

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