NY Waterway remembers the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’

Twelve years ago, US Airways Flight 1549 crash landed in the river

NY Waterway ferries converged on the plane following its crash landing in the Hudson River.
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NY Waterway ferries converged on the plane following its crash landing in the Hudson River.

On Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 crash landed in the Hudson River.

Twelve years ago today, NY Waterway ferry crews responded instantly, saving 143 of the 155 passengers and crew on board. The U.S. Coast Guard and the New York City Fire Department rescued 12 people.

The safe landing and subsequent rescue of all passengers and crew became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Ferry crews to the rescue

After Capt. Chelsey Sullenburger had safely landed the plane, ferry crews from NY Waterway began rescuing passengers and transporting them to safety.

“Nobody hesitated that day,” said NY Waterway Chairman Armand Pohan. “Nobody waited for someone else to give orders. From the most junior deckhand to the leadership in HQ, the people of NY Waterway sprang into action and saved lives. Because of our crews’ training and professionalism, they pulled 143 people from the Hudson in minutes. During this difficult time, it’s so important to remember that spirit and our sense of service to each other.”

A total of 14 NY Waterway ferries responded, on the Hudson River at 42nd Street, and seven of those ferries removed almost all of those passengers within minutes. Passengers were taken to NY Waterway ferry terminals at West 39th Street in Manhattan and Port Imperial in Weehawken, where office staff had established triage centers and provided their own coats and other items to people who had been exposed to the 30-degree waters.

If the ferry crews had not responded as quickly, passengers may have died or suffered the severe effects of hypothermia.

Saved from the water

Capt. Vincent Lombardi had just pulled the ferry Thomas Jefferson away from West 39th Street, the 3:30 p.m. departure, when Flight 1549 drifted in front of him.  He was next to the plane in three minutes as deckhands deployed the Jason’s Cradle and pulled 56 people onboard.

The Moira Smith rescued 14 people. The crew on the Gov. Thomas Kean saved 24 people. A minute later, the ferry Yogi Berra was pulling in 22 people, including two babies.

The Athena rescued 19 people, including Capt. Sullenberger. The Admiral Richard Bennis rescued three people, and the George Washington rescued one person.

NY Waterway ferry crews are featured in the film “Sully” starring Tom Hanks.

The crews drill constantly in water rescues and have saved more than 100 people from the waters of New York Harbor.

On 9/11, NY Waterway crews moved within minutes to the seawall one block from the World Trade Center and began evacuating people. Ferry crews, personally directed by Arthur E. Imperatore, Jr., moved 150,000 people from Manhattan that day.

In the August 13, 2003, blackout, when all trans-Hudson traffic was shut down, NY Waterway ferried 160,000 people home to New Jersey.

Since the dramatic 2009 rescue, NY Waterway ferries and their crews have been ready to assist in any emergency, including saving a man from the waters near Manhattan’s Pier 25 in August.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.