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P-47 Thunderbolt Retrieved After Fatal Plane Crash On Hudson River

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Divers with the New York Police Department and the Army Corps of Engineers have salvaged a vintager P-47 Thunderbolt after the plane crashed into the Hudson River Friday night.

Crews began the salvage operation of the P-47 Thunderbolt at around 10:30 a.m., WCBS 880's Stephanie Colombini reported. It will be taken to a heliport in Manhattan.

"The NYPD had divers that were down there to secure the plane. We loaded it on to a ship that was provided by the Army Core of Engineers," Nancy Silvestri, press secretary for the city's Office of Emergency Management, said. The ship had a crane on top of it. The crane lifted the plane."

Hudson Plane Crash
(Credit: NYPD)

The Coast Guard confirmed to 1010 WINS  Friday night that a plane went down in the river, reportedly on the West New York, New Jersey side across from the 79th Street Boat Basin. Officials were notified around 7:30 p.m.

The NYPD, FDNY, New Jersey State police and the office of emergency management deployed to the scene in search of the submerged aircraft. An FDNY boat located the downed plane by 9 p.m. after a lengthy search.

Pilot William Gordon, 56, of Key West, was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was pulled to shore at the 79th Street Boat Basin, CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported.

"You could see the guy trying to get out of the plane, but he just couldn't make it out," a witness told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

Hudson Plane Crash
(Credit: NYPD)

The World War 2 vintage P-47 Thunderbolt that Gordon was operating was one of three aircrafts that left from Republic Airport in Long Island for a promotional shoot before this weekend's Airshow over Jones Beach. A spokesman confirmed that the plane belonged to the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, Long Island. The museum routinely takes flights from New Jersey or Long Island over the Hudson River and around the Statue of Liberty. 

Officials at the American Airpower Museum were in mourning Saturday, as they remembered Gordon.

"Bill Gordon was an extraordinary pilot who understood the powerful message our aircraft represent in telling the story of American courage and valor," museum flight operations pilot Scott Clyman said in a statement.

Clyman told 1010 WINS' Roger Stern that Gordon's death is 'crushing' and hailed the pilot's decision to land the distressed plane in the water, to risk injuring those on the ground.

"From all accounts, and what we know of Bill, we did everything right," Clyman said. 

People dining outside in North Bergen New Jersey watched the entire scene unfold Friday evening.

"I thought it was making a water landing but then we saw the other planes turning around and saw something is wrong," Sabine De Meuter said. 

"It just kind of disappeared," another witness told 1010 WINS' Roger Stern. "It just kind of came down very low."

When the single-seater plane hit the water witnesses saw the pilot struggling.

"You can see the guy trying to get out of the plane but he just couldn't make it out," Camara Dodd, a witness, said.

John Michael Arcella posted YouTube video of the plane going down. He reported that he was riding his bike on the Riverside bike path when he saw a plane flying low with a trail of smoke behind it and then landing in the river.

Plane goes down in Hudson River NYC - P-47 Thunderbolt WWII Crash by John Michael Arcella on YouTube

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the aircraft as part of its investigation. They suspect engine failure was the issue, but are determining what exactly caused the plane to come down.

Less than 2 miles to the south on the Hudson River, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing in the water on Jan. 15, 2009 – in what has come to be known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was hailed as a hero for safely bringing the plane down. All 155 people on board survived.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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