Pilot presumed dead as plane crashes into Hudson River

Posted at: 05/03/2013 12:54 AM
By: Dan Levy

A small plane crashed Thursday afternoon into the Hudson River in Germantown.
A small plane crashed Thursday afternoon into the Hudson River in Germantown.
Photo: Dan Levy / WNYT

GERMANTOWN - One person is presumed dead after a small plane crashed, burned and then quickly sank into the Hudson River near Germantown, Columbia County around 4:30 Thursday afternoon.

The search for wreckage ended at sundown.

As emergency crews reached the scene and as rescue boats reached the water, 10-year-old William Saltis, while racing around on his scooter, reached out to media at the scene to tell an amazing story.

"I saw a black plane. It sounded fine. It wasn't sputtering, but it was coming down at the water at an angle and it's tip went into the water and it flipped on its back and blew up," the precocious youngster said. "The I saw debris flying in the air and shortly after that fire and then it sunk."

Kathy Overington, whose wrap-around deck overlooks the river, says she heard a loud noise.

"After we saw the commotion, after the crash, I got out the binoculars and we did see some debris in the center (of the river)," she recalled.

State police say they found debris floating down the river. They they believe they know where the plane went down, but there's no guarantee that's where the wreckage remained.

"Where we believe it went down is in the channel, in about 25 feet of water," said State Police Capt. Robert Nuzzo. "But the current is moving, which means it could be up north and when the tide turns it could wind up way down south."

Police also say the pilot was a local resident flying out of the nearby Columbia County Airport in Ghent. As of midnight, they had not identified that pilot. They're also not sure if other passengers were aboard.

Divers were on stand-by Thursday afternoon as SCUBA teams used side-scanning sonar to search for a debris field. Those divers are expected to be back in the water Friday morning.

Also state police are looking for witnesses who may have seen the plane before it crashed. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Catskill barracks at 518-622-8600.