Twitter's DDOS attack created some issues with SMS tweets yesterday, but if it hadn't here's what you would have read, according to the sent texts from my phone:
12:22PM I was paddling in the Hudson when the plane hit the chopper... saw them both go down hard. Sunk instantly. Didnt see anyone come out.
12:24PM Was right at 13th St when I heard loud collision and turned to see... Paddled over right away.
12:24PM Got out of the water at Frank Sinatra park in Hoboken, kinda shaken up.
12:25PM No way anyone in that chopper made it. Doors and parts and gasoline all over the water.
12:25PM River crawling with rescue boats now.
12:26PM Divers in the water... Not a lot I can do now. Will paddle around a bit and head back to Pier 96 where I was going.
12:27PM Prayers for anyone involved and their families.
12:48PM I heard one DOA... Nothing else about survivors.
12:56PM Dammit... Now I'm stuck here. Cops wont let me leave off the shore.
I was paddling up to the Downtown Boathouse's Pier 96 location at 56th street for a race at 2PM. I didn't make it in time.
It was a beautiful morning and the water was really calm. I was very leisurely paddling uptown, because I didn't want to wear myself out for the race. Right before I got to Pier 57, I turned my head to the NJ side. I may have heard some engine noise beforehand... I'm not sure if that made me turn or if I was just looking around. I saw the plane and the helicopter collide and heard the loud metal clang seemingly all in the same moment. The helicopter just spiraled down right away, and the plane continued South for maybe another 300 yards or so, heading down towards the water as it went. Both hit the water with a big splash.
I was so startled, but immediately started paddling across, saying "Oh shit... Oh shit" twice out loud as I was paddling. I motored across as fast as I could... I finished first in the Boathouse's race two years ago, so I was moving pretty fast.
I was looking around wondering if anyone else saw it. There was a Circle Line boat or Water Taxi--I don't remember which one that turned towards the scene right away, and some people standing at the end of the Chelsea Piers marina that were clearly on their phones calling 911.
As I raced across, I started thinking stuff like, "Should I stay in the boat when I get there, or dive into the water?" I was mentally preparing myself for what I might see. Was I going to see bodies? Injured? Was there anything I should be aware of for my own safety, like propellers still rotating or fire? Thinking back to the miracle Hudson River plane landing, I thought maybe the helicopter or plane might be floating on the water. Unfortunately, after the moment of splashdown, both the plane and the chopper disappeared under the water.
I don't know how long it took me, to reach the scene of the helicopter, but all that was left was a line of parts... floating panels, a door, some insolation. I was there right after a sailboat, the water taxi, and this dredging barge that had steamed out of the Lackawanna pier, which was right below the crash sight.
There was a gray men's sneaker in the water and immediately a chill ran down my spine. I poked it with my paddle, but it was free floating on its own.
I paddled around for another 25 minutes or so, but there was obviously nothing to be done. I had heard that a body had been found, but that was it.
We used to run a kayaking program out of Frank Sinatra park, so I knew there was a ramp there and paddled over. I tossed my boat up on the ramp and got out to sit down. Cops and emergency people immediately asked me if I had seen anything and they asked me to give a statement. They were trying to figure out where in the water to search, and were clearly positioned too far north to find the plane, which I told them. The current was dragging everything on the surface north.
After a little while, I went to go back out onto the water, but they wouldn't let me go. I tried to get them to offer me a route around the scene, but the NJ cops weren't hearing it and told me I might be out there for several hours. I hung out for a bit and answered some reporter questions. My mom told me there's a picture of me in the Daily News this morning, but I haven't scene it yet. Honestly, it felt a little weird answering questions and being interviewed, because I just felt so bad for whoever was involved. Fox News offered for me to be on TV that night and I turned it down. That would have made me feel like I was jumping at the chance to be on TV at the expense of someone else's tragedy. Even the photographers at one point got a little much--taking pictures of me as I was trying to leave the shore with my boat. I told them to cut it out and had to tell this one guy again.
I didn't have shoes or my car keys, which were still at Pier 40. I knew the Maxwell House Boathouse was nearby to the north, so I put the kayak on my shoulder, and then my head, and started walking, hoping to find a spot to put in that was clear of the crash scene. I walked barefoot with my boat to the Maxwell House Cove, meeting two EMS people on the shore who were just ambling about. The streets on the NJ side were all closed off, and by the time I left, it had become quite a scene.
I finally made my way up to Pier 96 about a half hour after the race... and paddled down to Pier 40 later that afternoon. They were cleaning blood off Pier 40 when I arrived--apparently that's where they took the first body.
I'm flipping through all the pictures and videos of the aftermath, and the news coming through as each of the nine bodies and the wreckage gets found. The image of the plane and the helicopter together in midair, and that sound, is imprinted in my mind. There was a big grey puff of smoke, too. I wish someone had been on the water to help or there was something to be done, but there wasn't. My heart goes out to all of the families of the people who were killed. I wish I could have helped.