The pilot of a vintage World War II plane miraculously escaped with minor injuries after his aircraft crashed into the Hudson River Friday night, sources and eyewitnesses said.
The single-seater P-47 Thunderbolt began smoking and listing to one side as it buzzed over the water and went down just south of the Edgewater Marina in Edgewater, New Jersey at around 7:30 p.m, officials and witnesses said.
“It made kind of a U-turn and then there was a stream of smoke coming from it,” said Siqi Li, 22, a Hunter College student. “It was tilting down toward the water. I thought they were doing some sort of trick. I didn’t realize it at first but it was a plane crash.”
Some witnesses said it sounded like the plane was having engine trouble just before the crash.
“Just saw a plane go down in the Hudson River. Hope all are okay,” Carla Nager wrote on Twitter.
“engine sounded like it was dying out,” she wrote.
A source said the pilot sent out a distress signal before his watery landing.
“It was flying in a perfect circle and then suddenly it shifted,” said Fahad Najam,36. “An FDNY boat was already heading in that direction and then it went down.”
The plane was completely submerged in a matter of minutes, witnesses said.
A New Jersey State Police spokesman said that the plane’s pilot suffered “minor, non-life-threatening injuries” and was being taken to a local hospital.
The vintage aircraft was with two other planes that departed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The other planes returned safely to Farmingdale.
More than a dozen FDNY, Coast Guard, New Jersey State Police and NYPD Harbor units were on the scene, according to officials.
The vintage plane was participating in the Fleet Week New York activities, Jeff Welz, co-director of the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue told NJ.com.
It may have also been participating in the Bethpage air show on Saturday and Sunday.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and other unique flyers have landed at Republic this week as they prepare for the show at Jones Beach this weekend.
With Ben Kochman