Passengers are rescued from the plane's wings
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A US Airways plane with more than 150 people aboard went down in the Hudson River on Thursday after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, and everyone aboard apparently got off the plane alive, officials said.
"It's just incredible now that everyone's still alive," passenger Alberto Pinero said.
Flight 1549, headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, may have experienced a bird strike, according to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.
Passenger Alberto Pinero said that within a couple minutes after takeoff, "you just heard a loud bang and the plane shook a bit."
Passengers could smell smoke, and "the plane just started turning. ... We knew something was going on, 'cause look, we were turning back," he said. Watch passenger say he heard a loud bang »
"Somehow, the plane stayed afloat and we were all able to get on a raft," Pinero said. "It's just incredible now that everyone's still alive."
The plane had 148 passengers, Brown said, and either five or six crew members on board when it took off at 3:26 p.m. It was airborne for less than three minutes, she said. Watch footage of plane in water »
Everyone on board is believed to have exited the Airbus A320, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The Coast Guard rescued 35 people, according to Coast Guard Cmdr. Ron LeBrec.
Roosevelt Hospital said it had received four passengers who were being treated for hypothermia, but had no further injures. Other hospitals were on alert.
The temperature in New York was 20 degrees about the time of the crash off Manhattan's west side.
Witnesses reported seeing the plane hit a flock of birds, Brown said. See map of crash site »
A source familiar with the situation told CNN the pilot reported a double bird strike, but it was unclear whether that meant birds in both of the engines or two birds in one engine.
The pilot initially said he needed to go back, and air traffic controllers started to give him clearance to do so, but the pilot said he wanted to head to Teterboro, New Jersey, because it was closer. That was the last transmission from the pilot, the source said.
Pinero said the plane's captain came on the speaker and said, " 'Brace for impact.' "
"That's when we knew we were going down and into the water," Pinero said. Pinero said rescue boats arrived immediately.
"I think a lot of people started praying and just collecting themselves," passenger Fred Barretta said. "It was quite stunning." Watch passenger describe landing »
Barretta said he was expecting the plane to flip over and break apart, but it did not. "It was a great landing."
Live video showed the plan
e bobbing in the water and moving with the current surrounded by boats, including a ferry that dropped life jackets into the water.
Pictures from the scene showed passengers filing off the plane on safety chutes.
Witness Ben Vonklemperrer said he saw the plane go down.
"I'm in an office building on the 25th floor," he said. "A short time ago, I saw what looked to be a small commercial plane flying south making a gradual landing. I saw it hit the water. It made a big splash. ... If someone's going to land a plane in the water, this seemed the best possible way to do it. The way they hit it was very gradual. A very slow contact with the water."
Jerry Wallis, who said he was a private pilot, said he watched the plane go into the water.
"I've got to tell you, the people flying that airplane deserve all the recognition and commendation they can get," Wallis said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to the site, according to an agency spokesman.
Since 1975, five large jetliners have had major accidents in which bird strikes played a role, according to the Web site of Bird Strike Committee USA, a volunteer group dedicated to reducing the frequency and severity of the strikes.
More than 56,000 bird strikes were reported to the FAA from 1998 to 2004 according to the group's Web site.
An Airbus A320 has 150 seats -- 12 in first class and 138 in economy, according to the Airbus Web site.People who believe they may have had relatives on the flight may call US Airways at 1-800-679-8215 within the United States, the airline said