Pilot, passenger talk about Hudson plane crash

January 30, 2013 8:05:04 PM PST
The pilot of the small plane that crashed in the Hudson River on Sunday shares her tale of survival and what she was thinking.

It was Sunday night and Deneice DePriester and a friend were flying in her new single engine plane taking in the magnificent Manhattan skyline.

It was all so beautiful, until they felt the bump.

The plane started to roll and the engine started to fail.

They dropped 400 feet in five seconds and suddenly, there were no options: she was about to crash that new plane in the frigid Hudson River.

"The only thing that I was thinking about was how am I going to put it down?" said Deneise DePriester, the pilot.

Denise DePriester had just bought her Piper PA 32 and was taking her friend Christopher Smidt for a ride up the Hudson Corridor on Sunday night.

Somewhere around the George Washington Bridge, the engine balked and the plane started to drop.

She regained control, but only briefly.

"We were already dropping altitude so I didn't have enough time to recover, so the only time I had left was to focus on a safe water landing," DePriester said.

DePriester made a mayday call, but she never heard a response. Still, neither she nor her passenger panicked.

"How fast are we going to hit that water, how hard are we going to hit that water, and are we going to survive the impact? That's everything that went through my mind, and by the time I got to that last question, we were in the water," said Christopher Smidt, passenger.

The landing was soft, but the plane was sinking and they needed to get out. First, they both phoned their spouses.

"He called his wife first, and I called Raymond and tell him that, 'Don't worry, I landed in the Hudson, and turn on the TV and that I have to go now,'" DePriester said.

"Cold is not even the word. It was unbearable," Smidt said.

They spend a half hour in the icy Hudson River, before the rescue boat finally spotted them.

"When the lights were fixed on us, I stopped paddling. I stopped doing anything," DePriester said.

"Was that the first time you knew you were going to be OK?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Yes," DePriester said.

DePriester says she never doubted they would both survive.

And while her piloting skills saved them in the air, it was her experience as a flight attendant that saved them in the water.

Back in the 1990's, DePriester was a flight attendant and she trained for ditching in the water, to paddle backwards, to keep the throat warm in frigid waters.

She shouted these things to Smidt and they're both alive because of it.

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