NEW YORK – Crews searching the frigid, murky Hudson River for debris from US Airways Flight 1549 have turned up shoes, hats and flotation devices, but the location of the missing left engine remains unknown.
Police harbor officers are using sonar-equipped boats and working with a sonar expert from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration as they search the area where the plane came down Thursday, near the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The NYPD is also monitoring the river from the air because sensitive equipment could be damaged by ice and must be removed if the river gets too icy.
Crews have already located several pieces of debris from the flight, including 35 flotation seat cushions, 12 life jackets, 15 pieces of luggage, two briefcases, 11 purses, 15 suit jackets and shirts, four shoes and two hats, according to New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne.
All the debris and passengers' belongings are being turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board for its investigation into the emergency landing into the river. US Airways has sent $5,000 checks to each of the 150 passengers to compensate them for lost belongings.
If search teams get a positive hit, the NYPD will drop a robotic device with a video camera to confirm whether the image is the engine, police said. If the engine is found, NTSB contractors will work to recover the engine from the water.
The Airbus A320 crash-landed in the Hudson after hitting birds and losing thrust in both engines. All 155 people on board survived and were rescued by nearby ferries and emergency crews from city law enforcement agencies. The plane was put on a barge after being pulled from the river over the weekend and taken to New Jersey; it is to be disassembled and shipped to an undisclosed location for closer examination.
Since the crash landing, the NYPD has recovered more than 40 pieces of the aircraft, including four window exits and an access panel door.
NTSB officials said Saturday they had possibly located the left engine, but reports were unfounded. There had been an initial sonar hit, but when the boat went back for a second sweep, nothing was found.
The NTSB said Monday that the jet had experienced an engine compressor failure two days before the crash landing. Agency spokesman Peter Knudson said the flight had a different pilot that day, and the board planned to interview that pilot to learn more about the incident.
CNN reported Monday that passengers on the Jan. 13 flight reported hearing loud bangs followed by an announcement from the pilot that the aircraft was either returning to LaGuardia Airport or going to try to land. There were differing accounts of the pilot's statements.
However, passengers said that a short time later the situation appeared to return to normal and the flight continued on to Charlotte, N.C., CNN reported. It's not unusual for a flight to continue on to its destination after a compressor stall if the engine returns to normal functioning.