Yonkers police and emergency personnel pull one of two people safely out of the frigid Hudson River on Sunday after their plane landed in the river. Both occupants were taken to an area trauma center. (image courtesy Yonkers Police Dept. via The Journal News)
By Greg Shillinglaw, Will David, and Shawn Cohen
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
YONKERS, N.Y. -- The passenger on a plane that crashed into the Hudson River on Sunday called 911 and expressed fear for his life as icy water was filling the plane, according to an audio recording obtained by The Journal News.
"I'm going to lose you, I'm going to lose you," the passenger, Christopher Smidt of Colonia, N.J., cried during a frantic call with Westchester County police dispatcher Melissa Seymour. "We're in the water, we're filling up!"
"We're in the plane, the plane is taking on water," shouts Smidt, 43, who was on a plane piloted by Deniece De-Priester-Kok, 39, of East Windsor, N.J.
"Is it possible for you to get out?" Seymour asks.
"We can get out if we have to," he replies.
"I need you to get out," Seymour advises him. "Get out of the plane."
"The water's freezing," he cries. "I'm not going to make it to shore."
The couple, donning life jackets, disembarked shortly before the plane sank into the river .
Yonkers police, including an off-duty detective and his 12-year-old son, rescued them from the river. Both are in stable condition at Jacobi Medical Center, said John Doyle, a hospital spokesman who identified the plane's two occupants.
The passenger made the call about 5:25 p.m. Sunday to report that the Piper Cherokee had crash landed in the river. The call was received at the New York state Transportation Management Center and a dispatcher there transferred the call to the county police.
Yonkers Deputy Police Chief Frank Intervallo said Monday that the pilot and passenger appeared to be fine and probably would be released from the hospital soon. Smidt's wife told The Journal News that her husband is doing OK but that he does not yet wish to speak to the media.
The 1967 six-seat plane is registered to a Dominick Lipariti of Manalapan, N.J. He told the newspaper that he sold the plane just last week to a woman from central New Jersey. A recreational pilot, Lipariti flew the plane to her on Tuesday, taking a 20-minute trip from Old Bridge to Robinsville, N.J. The plane was up to date with inspections and flew perfectly, he added.
"I was pretty shocked and just relieved that everything was OK," he said of the crash. "I'll let them recover, then I'll send my regards."
Yonkers police have no intention of looking for or raising the sunken plane, Intervallo said, adding that the department discussed the matter with the FAA.
"We have no reason to look for it," Intervallo said. "We are done."
Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said his agency will issue a report on the crash 10 business days after the accident.
Weiss said the plane must be removed from the water, but he does not know which agency will do it.
"The plane can not remain in the river," Weiss said. "Someone has to fish it out and someone has to pay for it."