New York mayor rewards rescuers of downed US Airways plane

January 17th, 2009 - 5:58 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Jan 17 (DPA) New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday handed out medals and certificates to those who worked to rescue 155 passengers and crew of the US Airways plane that crashed into the frigid waters of the Hudson river.Bloomberg said the personnel and equipment deployed Thursday to pull all 155 people to safety was a fraction of what the city has to prepare for any emergency.

He praised city agencies and private groups for what is now known as the “miracle on the Hudson.”

“It’s a day to thank God for the smiles on our faces and it goes to show that if we work together, we can do anything,” Bloomberg said in a ceremony at City Hall.

He gave medals and certificates to firefighters, pilots of ferry boats, scuba divers and police officers involved in the dramatic rescue of the passengers and crew of US Airways Flight 1549, which crashed into the Hudson minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bloomberg planned to give the key of the city to the downed plane’s captain, Chesley Sullenberger, a former US Air Force pilot, who manoeuvred the Airbus 320 plane to crash into the river without breaking up.

Sullenberger was being questioned by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) and was not present at City Hall. NTSB was investigating the accident.

News reports said Friday it was the first time in US history that a commercial plane crashed in a river without fatalities, after its two engines were disabled allegedly after a flock of geese hit the plane. The Wall Street Journal described the scene as “a prayer and a wing,” after passengers got out of the almost submerged fuselage and stood on the plane’s wings waiting to be rescued.

US Airways chairman and CEO Douglas Parker, who attended the ceremony at City Hall, said: “The response was simply amazing and we are extremely grateful to all in New York City.”

“The rescue was quick and heroic,” Parker said. He declined to provide details to reporters because of the on-going investigation.

Within minutes of the crash, several US Coast Guard vessels, ferry boats and water taxis that ply the Hudson River surrounded the crippled plane to rescue the passengers. The plane crashed at the level of midtown Manhattan and drifted to its tip, where it is now anchored.

The Airbus 320 headed to Charlotte, took off from LaGuardia at 3.26 p.m. and crashed less than three minutes later, FAA spokesman Laura Brown said Thursday.

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