PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – On Jan. 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Little did passenger Andrew Gray know that in six minutes, he would be in the middle of the Hudson River.
Gray, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, joined the “KDKA Morning News” to tell his story before “Sully” starring Tom Hanks, is released in theaters on Sept. 9.
Shortly after takeoff, the airplane ran into a flock of [Canada] geese that took out both engines. With no other options, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed the plane in the Hudson River.
“It was only a six-minute flight overall and we ended up impacting with the flock of Canadian geese about one minute in. We were still climbing over LaGuardia (Airport) and then we had about four minutes in the air before Sully came over the intercom and gave us our instructs to brace for impact,” Gray said.
Gray adds it was, “eerily quiet in the cabin” and no one was panicking as he was looking down and saw the plane heading for water.
“I realized we were going down. I looked out the window and I could see water and you want to talk about like a ton of bricks. Just your throat, heart, everything sinking to the floor,” Gray said.
He said it was hard being in a helpless state and that all he could do was hold his fiancée’s [now wife’s] hand, kissed her and they held each other until impact while praying.
While sitting there waiting for impact Gray said he tried to prepare himself for what he would do after impact.
“Finally, this acceptance of the situation hit me and I just hoped that I died on impact. I didn’t want to drown,” he said.
After impact, Gray said he was thrown forward and then back in his seat with water all around him, not knowing if the plane was going to sink.
He said there wasn’t panic and that the passengers came together and filed into the aisle and made it onto the wing.
“As soon as I stepped out onto the wing I was about ankle deep in water and I was almost waist deep by the time I was rescued. But, as soon as I stepped out I could see Manhattan just towering in front of me and at that moment I knew we were going to be okay. This is post 9/11 [and New York’s] emergency response was going to be spot on,” said Gray.
Later, Gray sent a wedding invitation to Sully.
“Sully couldn’t be there…but he did take the time, him and his wife, to make a four-minute video of him sitting in front of his fireplace with little anecdotes about their marriage and wishing us well with ours. For him to take that kind of time out just shows what kind of guy he is,” Gray said.
Gray said he now has a different perspective on, “what really matters.” He will be speaking at a special viewing of the movie on Sept. 13 at the Cinemark in Robinson Township.
Tickets can be purchased here.
Listen to the “KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.