Joe Hart, recalling his experience as a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549, told the Wall Street Journal that he heard a loud thud when the plane hit the birds and recalls saying to his friend, seated two rows forward, "This can't be good."
After the engines failed, he says he briefly panicked. Then through a window he saw the rooftops of Manhattan buildings and again said, "This definitely can't be good."
"I've got to tell you the impact wasn't nearly what I thought it'd be," he said, adding that he'd convinced himself long ago that a water landing would kill everyone upon impact.
Hart, who returned to Charlotte on another flight early Friday morning, said he felt the plane slow and bank hard to the left. He said the left wing broke the surface of the water first and "we did a 90-degree turn that kind of threw us."
A few passengers became frantic after landing and others broke into tears once they exited the plane, but most agreed that everyone cooperated in helping the flight crew swiftly and orderly evacuate. Mr. Hart said those seated in the exit rows "popped the doors right open just like the flight attendants tell you to do, and people started to file out."
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The river's strong current capsized one of the rafts and began to carry it away, threatening to strand passengers who had evacuated onto the nearest aircraft wing. Carl Bazarian, Brad Wintzell and another passenger clasped hands to form a human chain, and reached over the water's surface and caught the raft. They flipped it right side up, and Mr. Wintzell hopped in to steady it. They helped women and children aboard first.
"If we didn't get that raft we'd be screwed," Mr. Bazarian, a 62-year-old investment banker from Amelia Island, Fla., told Mr. Wintzell after landing at the Charlotte airport. The men were among the passengers who came away from the crash as friends after working together against extreme conditions.