The US Airways plane appeared to make an emergency landing after a flock of geese reportedly flew into the engine, causing the pilot to lose some control of the commercial airliner before he made a controlled landing in the river's estuary. First responders were sent to rescue 150 people, including five crewmembers.
Passengers reported hearing a noise, smelling smoke, and feeling a sensation that the plane was losing power. Some said they were able to jump immediately out the doors of the plane and scramble aboard ferries that happened to be in the water at the time.
The Hudson River Estuary is a stretch of river where the freshwater mixes with the saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean tides influence the strong currents in that section of the river.
Eyewitnesses said the plane went down in the water just west of Hell's Kitchen, around West 50th Street. The entire scene -- the plane, passengers, rescuers, and their boats -- moved south in the river with the currents.
The plane left LaGuardia at 3:26 p.m. for Charlotte, N.C. The Fire Department of New York received its first emergency call six minutes later.
Soon after the accident, dozens of people could be seen standing on the aircraft's wings as rescuers approached.
The wind chill made the temperature on dry land in New York City feel like 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Marine forecasts indicated waves of 1 to 2 feet around the island of Manhattan.
Early reports indicated that many passengers had been rescued by NYPD divers and taken to hospitals to be treated for exposure to the cold and crash-related injuries.
The last time a commercial aircraft flew that low over the Hudson River was immediately before terrorists deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
During the first hour, US Airways' Web site was slow to load and its "flight status" function failed to bring up information on the flight. Then, the entire site failed to load. Finally, the company posted a statement about the landing on a page dedicated to the incident.
Anyone who believes they may have had relatives on US Airways Flight 1549 is encouraged to call the airline's hot line at 800-679-8215.