Skip to main content

'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
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT