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'We're not going to make it to shore,' man says after plane hits icy Hudson River

From Laura Batchelor, CNN
updated 8:42 PM EST, Tue January 29, 2013
  • Two people were aboard a single-engine Piper that crashed into the Hudson River
  • "It's freezing," man tells 911 operator as he and his instructor get out
  • "We were glad to get there quick," detective says of water rescue
  • Pair were taken to a medical center for minor injuries

(CNN) -- The chilling 911 call from a man whose single-engine plane had crashed into the icy Hudson River captures what he thought were his last moments.

"I am going to lose you. I am going to lose you!" Christopher Smidt, 43, told the 911 operator as he and his flight instructor got out of the aircraft and into frigid waters of the Hudson near Yonkers, New York. "It's freezing," Smidt gasps as the chill of the water overtakes his body.

Smidt, a student pilot, and his instructor, Deniece De Priester, 39, were flying a Piper PA-32 late Sunday afternoon, using visual flight rules and not receiving air traffic control services, the FAA said.

The calm emergency operator urged Smidt and De Priester to get out of the cockpit: "I need you to get out of the plane so you are not trapped in the plane."

"We are out. We're not going to make it to shore," Smidt replied on the cell phone that he had used to contact 911.

The operator told Smidt that emergency services were on their way. But Smidt was not sure of his fate: "OK. I'm gonna lose you," he said.

Those were the last words the operator heard from him.

Detective Daniel Higgins of the Yonkers Police Department was among the rescuers who pulled Smidt and De Preister from the water.

"We had access to the pilot boats, so we were able to get aboard and start it up and get to the two victims in the water," he told CNN affiliate News 12 Westchester.

"If we didn't get there quick enough, well, let's just say we were glad to get there quick."

Smidt credits De Priester for her fast thinking and her skill, as well as, the New York Police Department and the Yonkers Police Department and Higgins for saving their lives from the freezing water.

"I know I don't want to be back in that water. I don't want Deneice to be back in that water," Smidt told CNN.

Smidt and De Preister were taken to Jacobi Medical Center on Sunday and released on Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash. Calls to Smidt and De Preister for comment were not returned.

CNN's Mary Snow contributed to this report.

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