— NEW YORK - Instead of a jetway, passengers aboard a flight from New York City's LaGuardia airport got onto rescue boats after their short and frightening flight.
The U.S. Airways flight ditched in New York's frigid Hudson River near 48th Street just moments after takeoff. The plane, an Airbus 320, apparently lost power in its engines after striking a flock of birds.
A passenger, Jeff Kolodjay of Norwalk, Conn., said he heard an explosion three or four minutes into the flight. He looked out of the left side of the plane and could see one of the engines on fire.
"The left engine just blew. Fire, flames coming out of it — I was sitting right there — and it started smelling like gasoline," he said. The captain then told everyone, 'Brace for impact because we're going down.'
Kolodjay described the experience as "intense" and credits the pilot with making a "hell of a landing."
Once passengers got out on the wing, "everyone was kind of orderly," he said. "I just kept saying, ‘Relax, relax.’ Then it just started filling with water, quick."
Scores of people in the city’s high-rises watched as the dramatic landing took place just outside their windows.
"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.