Passengers stand on the wings of a U.S. Airways plane as a ferry pulls up to it after it landed in the Hudson River in New York January 15, 2009. (Photo : Reuters)
Two people narrowly escaped an icy death Sunday, when heroic off-duty police officers pulled them out of the freezing Hudson River after their single-engine plane crashed and sank, authorities said.
The couple's Piper PA-32 plunged into the Hudson off Yonkers around 5:25 p.m., not long after taking off from the Trenton-Robbinsville Airport in New Jersey, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said, according to NBC News. The plane was flying under visual flight rules and not receiving air traffic control services, Bergen said.
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As the destroyed plane sank, the middle-aged pilot and passenger - both wearing life preservers - were pulled down stream by the frosty tide. But the pair was in luck. Yonkers police detective Danny Higgins and his 12-year-old son had just returned form an ice-fishing trip, and were at the nearby Tower Ridge Yacht Club when they learned of the crash. Higgins, his son, a few other Yonkers cops promptly jumped into a 44-foot police boat.
"We just reacted to it," Higgins said to the New York Daily News. "We were the closest to the scene."
Despite poor visibility, Higgins and crew to found the couple within 30 minutes. Had they taken much longer to find the pair, though, Higgins admits he isn't so sure they would have survived.
"They were going into shock," Higgins said. "They were probably in the water for a good 20 minutes."
"Another 10 minutes? Forget about it. They would have been stiff."
Based on the 911 call released Monday, the dispatcher ordered the frantic man and pilot to leave the sinking plane, according to NBC.
"The plane is filling up!" the passenger says. He then calls to the pilot, "Get out! Get out! ... We're going down!" NBC reported.
The couple was treated for hypothermia and was listed in stable condition at Jacobi, Lt. Toni Scherer of Empress Ambulance Service said. The names of the two were not immediately released.
"Thank God we got there quick enough," said Higgins. "It's what we do for a living, and I'm just glad we were in the right place at the right time," Higgins told the News.
The couple's plane was registered to Dominick Lipariti, of Manalapan, N.J., according to FAA records.
In 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger safely crash-landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in New York after the plane was barraged by a flock of geese. All 155 people aboard survived.