Florida residents survive jet plane crash in NY


Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Floridian survivors of the aircraft that splashed down in the Hudson River credited the work of the pilot, the quick rescue from the icy waters and divine intervention.

The plane came down in the icy Hudson River in New York on Thursday, and all 155 people on board survived. Besides one victim with two broken legs, there were no other reports of serious injuries.

"I am grateful to be here along with everyone else on that plane. It was by the grace of God and a great pilot," Donald C. Jones of Jacksonville, who is executive officer for the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

The worst part of the experience was the several minutes he spent in the icy waters of the Hudson River after being one of the first people off the plane, he said in an interview at Jacksonville International Airport.

"The water was cold, cold. I was worried about hypothermia. If I was stuck in that water any longer, it probably would have been problematic. As it was, it took me about two hours to warm up," Jones said.

The medical executive said he has dealt with rougher landings on regular flights than the bump when the plane hit the river.

"I never had the first doubt that we were not going to make it," Jones said.

Another Jacksonville-area man, Carl Bazarian Sr., of Amelia Island, also survived the crash.

After hearing the announcement the plane was going down, Bazarian told WJXT, a Jacksonville television station, "I started to say a prayer, but halfway through we hit the water.

Alberto Panero of Pembroke Pines was flying from New York to Charlotte, N.C., for a medical residency interview when the plane went down, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Gloria Panero had heard from her son around 3 p.m., when he called to say he had been offered a one-year residency at Broward General Medical Center. When he called about half an hour later, she says he had even more excitement in his voice: He told her he had survived a major plane crash.

A former Daytona Beach woman, Tomika Williams, 25, who now lives in Tallahassee called her grandmother, Sara Edwards, just before the aircraft crashed into the river, her family told the Daytona Beach New-Journal.

Screams and prayers were heard from the phone as the plane crashed into the water. The phone went dead and it was 45 minutes before the family learned Tomika was safe. There was no telephone listing for Tomikia Williams in Tallahassee.

"We can claim a miracle today. God piloted that plane to get everyone off safely," said Larry Edwards, a family spokesman and former Daytona Beach Police Department chaplain.

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