When US Airways Flight 1549 hit the Hudson River in New York, it hit hard, according to passenger Dave Sanderson.
“I remember being able to see people’s faces as the plane went over the bridge, and I knew it wasn’t good,” he recalled Tuesday night to a group of American Red Cross donors and volunteers.
Sanderson, who lives in Charlotte, was one of the last people off the plane and spent as long as seven minutes in the water before being lifted aboard a nearby ferry boat.
The long-time Red Cross blood donor was rushed to the hospital after the crash and stripped down to his undergarments, which had frozen to his body.
“I ended up going home with only the sweat pants the Red Cross gave me and my wallet,” Sanderson said. “And the Red Cross also checked in with me that night to make sure I was OK. I believe in what they do.”
The Red Cross response to the crash came just minutes after Flight 1549 hit the water.
Through an agreement between the National Transportation Safety Board and the Red Cross, following an aviation incident, the Red Cross is the lead mental health agency established to work with the families of the survivors at the airports where the flight originates and where the flight is due for arrival.
Red Cross chapters from New York and northern New Jersey rushed to aid those at the crash scene. In North Carolina, the ill-fated flight’s destination, Red Cross Chapters made their way to Charlotte Douglas International Airport to offer counseling and comfort to friends and loved ones of those on the aircraft.
The Red Cross responded immediately near the crash site in New York and New Jersey with blankets, sweat suits, socks and other supplies for passengers and crew members who safely evacuated. Red Cross relief workers assisted at the Family Assistance Centers set up by U.S. Airways in Queens and Manhattan, where some passengers were initially evacuated. They provided mental health counseling and further assistance to passengers as needed.
In Charlotte, the Greater Carolinas Chapter provided mental health and health services professionals to help concerned friends and family members after the crash.
All 155 passengers and crew on board escaped with minor injuries. According to fire officials, paramedics treated as many as 78 patients, many for hypothermia, bruises and other minor injuries.
“In an instant, 155 people had to work together as a team,” Sanderson said. “You can’t say this wasn’t a miracle.”