A US Airways jetliner crashed into the frigid Hudson River on Thursday afternoon after a collision with a flock of birds disabled both its engines, sending more than 150 passengers and crew members scrambling onto rescue boats, authorities say.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, North Carolina, when the crash occurred.
The plane went into the Hudson River, which divides New York and New Jersey, near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan.
The jet, initially surrounded by commuter ferries and later by rescue boats, floated downstream as hundreds watched from office towers overlooking the river.
The plane initially sank up to its windows, and passengers were taken off into frigid water on one of the coldest days of the year with temperatures around 20 degrees (minus 6.7 degrees Celsius).
The plane, an Airbus 320, took off at 3:26 p.m. (2026 GMT) and went down minutes later, Brown said.
"There were eyewitness reports the plane may have flown into a flock of birds," Brown said. She added, "right now we don't have any indication this was anything other than an accident."
Rescuers in Coast Guard vessels and ferry boats arrived, opened the door and pulled passengers in yellow life vests from the aircraft.
The plane eventually sank.
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."
Barbara Sambriski, a researcher at The Associated Press, saw the plane go down from the news organization's high-rise office. "I just thought, 'Why is it so low?' And, splash, it hit the water," she said.
Joe Mazzone, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot, said it is not unusual for birds to strike planes. In fact, he said, when planes get ready to take off, if there are birds in the area, the tower will alert the crew.
"They literally just choke out the engine and it quits," Mazzone said.