14 years-ago today, January 15, NY Waterway ferry crews reacted instantly to the crash of US Airways Flight 1549, saving 143 of the 155 passengers and crew pulled from the water in the Miracle on the Hudson, the most successful marine rescue in aviation history.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the New York City Fire Department rescued an additional 12 people.
Long before the dramatic 2009 rescue, NY Waterway ferries and their crews have stood ready and able to assist in any emergency, from water rescues to major evacuations.
“The men and women who carry our riders to work are the same people who respond as heroes in times of crisis. Thanks to our captains’ and crews’ training and professionalism, the NY Waterway team was able to pull 143 people from the Hudson in minutes on that bitter January day. We’re so proud of our role in the Miracle on the Hudson,” said NY Waterway Chairman, Armand Pohan.
A total of 14 NY Waterway ferries responded to the crash, on the Hudson River at 42nd Street, and seven of those ferries removed almost all passengers within minutes, taking them to ferry terminals at West 39th Street in Manhattan and Port Imperial in Weehawken, where office staff had established triage centers and provided their own coats and other items to people who had been exposed to the 30-degree waters of the Hudson River.
Experts have said that if these ferry crews had not responded as quickly as they did, many people would have died or suffered severe effects of hypothermia.
For example, Capt. Vincent Lombardi had just pulled the ferry Thomas Jefferson away from West 39th Street, the 3:30 p.m. departure, when Flight 1549 drifted in front of him. He was next to the plane in three minutes as deckhands Hector Rabanes and Wilfredo Rivera deployed the Jason’s Cradle and pulled 56 people on board.
Capt. Manny Liba and his crew on the Moira Smith rescued 14 people. Capt. Brittany Catanzaro and her crew on the Gov. Thomas Kean saved 24 people. A minute later, Capt. Vincent LuCante on the ferry Yogi Berra was there, as Capt. Mike Starr, who had jumped aboard at the work dock, pulled in 22 people, including two babies.
When then-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked NY Waterway Vice President of Ferry Operations Alan Warren what his crews were thinking when they saw the plane in the water, Warren answered: “We don’t think. We just react.”
NY Waterway ferry crews are featured in the film “Sully” starring Tom Hanks.
NY Waterway crews drill constantly in water rescues.
This past December, NY Waterway rescued more than 500 passengers from a Staten Island Ferry disabled by an engine room fire.
On 9/11, NY Waterway crews moved within minutes to the seawall one block from the World Trade Center and began evacuating people. Ferry crews, personally directed by Arthur E. Imperatore, Jr., moved 150,000 people from Manhattan that day.
In the August 13, 2003, blackout, when all trans-Hudson traffic was shut down, NY Waterway ferried 160,000 people home to New Jersey.
Vessels and Crews Participating in the Rescue
Vessel: Thomas Jefferson
Captain Vincent Lombardi
Rescued from plane: 56
22 ferry passengers
Vessel: Yogi Berra
Captain Vince Lucante
Captain Michael Starr
Rescued from plane: 24 (including 1 infant and 1 child)
Captain Carl Lucas
Rescued from plane: 19 (this included the Pilot)
Vessel: Moira Smith
Captain Manny Liba
Rescued from Plane: 14
Vessel: Thomas Kean
Captain Britanny Catanzaro
Rescued from plane: 26
Vessel: Admiral Richard Bennis
Captain John Winiarski
Rescued from plane: 3
Vessel: George Washington
Captain Mohamed Gouda
Rescued from plane: 1