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Small Plane Goes Down On Hudson River; Pilot's Body Recovered

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A small plane went down Friday evening on the Hudson River, and the pilot's body was later recovered.

The Coast Guard confirmed to 1010 WINS 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 Federal Aviation Administration received a report that a World War II vintage P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft may have gone downing the Hudson River, two miles south of the George Washington Bridge. Witnesses saw the plane descend quickly into the river and disappear with a large splash in the water.

An FDNY boat located the downed plane by 9 p.m. after a lengthy search.

"We had one of our small response boats that was able to tie a rope around the plane," said FDNY Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Ed Ferrier. "We have a line on it."

The pilot's body was recovered late Friday night and was pulled to shore at the 79th Street Boat Basin.

Police said the pilot, a 56-year-old man, was pronounced dead at the scene. His identification available was not available late Friday.

Earlier, the New Jersey State Police tweeted that a pilot was rescued and was headed to an area hospital with minor injuries, but the department later said the information was erroneous.

As of 11 p.m., six boats were still surrounding the crash site – one of which was still believed to be tied to the wrecked plane, Joe Biermann reported from Chopper 2.

The Army Corps of Engineers will conduct salvage operations to remove the plane wreckage on Saturday.

As CBS2's Ali Bauman reported, the NYPD said the single-passenger plane had come from Republic Airport in Suffolk County.

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.

The plane that crashed and the two others with it were reportedly doing aerials to promote the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, 1010 WINS' Samantha Liebman reported.

Witnesses Frank Piazza and Joe Long captured photos showing parts of the plane sticking up from the water.

Hudson River Plane Crash
A small plane crashed into the Hudson River on Friday, May 27, 2016. (Credit: Frank Piazza)
Hudson River Plane Crash
A small plane crashed into the Hudson River on Friday, May 27, 2016. (Credit: Joe Long)

But ultimately, the plane was left completely submerged in the river.

Witnesses told CBS2's Tracee Carrasco the plane that went down was one of three planes that had been flying up and down the river.

"When I first saw them go past, it was three planes bunched up together and I was like, they're flying extremely close to each other," said "and then like no less than 10 minutes later I turned over my shoulder and one was going down," said witness Camara Dodd, who was dining outside at the Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen.

They said they saw the pilot try to get out.

"When we looked to our left, the only thing we saw was the tail end of it, but we didn't hear no engine. But then we also saw the pilot – he came up, and he also just went back down, but he never came up," said witness Nick Ciccolella.

"You could see him trying to get out of the harness of whatever – whatever he was strapped to, the seatbelt or harness or whatever, but he couldn't get out," Dodd said.

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

"We were just hoping that the guy comes up," said witness Teju Raval. "We were just praying that somebody goes there and somebody goes there, or some diver or somebody goes there and pulls him out."

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

Twitter user @robflash_ also captured video of the plane as it crashed into the river.

"It's heartbreaking that we couldn't do anything about it," Ciccolella said.

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.

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