BofA, Wells workers on downed US Airways flight

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. said Thursday a number of employees of the banks that dominate the city's business community were on board a US Airways plane that crashed into New York's Hudson River.

"We are aware of three employees on the airplane and we have confirmed they are safe," said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Eshet.

The San Francisco-based bank completed its purchase of Charlotte's Wachovia Corp. last month, and Eshet said Wachovia had several businesses with operations in New York, including corporate investment banking.

At Bank of America, spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie said the nation's largest bank was confirming the whereabouts of its employees and was "working closely with the local authorities to gather further information."

Bank of America's headquarters are in Charlotte, but it has a large retail and consumer banking business in New York, which is also the home of its corporate investment bank. Bank of America also acquired New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co. on Jan. 1.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said US Airways Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte when the crash occurred in the river near 48th Street in midtown Manhattan. The airline is based Tempe, Ariz., but operates its largest hub at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

Terry Trippler, an airline and travel expert based in Minneapolis, said flights on the New York to Charlotte route would normally be filled with banking and other workers in the financial services industry. Years ago, he said, corporations tried to make sure a large number of employees did not all take the same flight.

"As the years have gone by, that has been a moot point with a lot of corporations," he said.

Authorities said the pilot of the Airbus 320 ditched his disabled jetliner after collision with a flock of birds apparently knocked out both engines. Rescuers pulled all 155 people on board into boats as the plane sank.

At Charlotte-Douglas, the flight was still listed on information screens as a pending arrival hours after it crashed. The screens said it was scheduled to land at 5:16 p.m. and pull into gate 5B.

"I just can't believe it happened. It's shocking," said Sheikh Ali, 50, of West Caldwell, N.J., who was waiting at Charlotte-Douglas for a business partner who was on board. "I could have been on that plane. It's very hard for me to believe this has happened."

Ali said his company was able to confirm his partner was safe, and he planned to spend the rest of the night trying to get in touch with his friend.

"I'm just glad he made it," he said.


Associated Press writer Mitch Weiss contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.