A day of celebration has turned into one of tragedy as the pilot of a small vintage World War II plane was killed after the plane crashed into the Hudson River during the celebrations of its 75th anniversary. The plane seemed to be in the midst of performing a trick, doing a small partial loop as smoke poured out of the World War II plane just moments before crashing into the river between New York and New Jersey on Friday.
Divers recovered the body of the pilot from the sunken wreckage of the World War II plane. Police and witnesses have said that the first signs that the single engine, single-seater P-47 Thunderbolt fighter was in distress is when it began smoking and listing to one side as it flew over the Hudson River before crashing, just south of the Edgewater Marina in Edgewater, New Jersey. The New York Daily News reported that the man at the controls of the doomed World War aircraft was 56-year-old Bill Gordon, according to the NYPD.
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The tragic end to the celebration occurred at approximately 7:30 p.m., officials said. Twenty-two-year-old Hunter College student Siqi Li, was one of many to witness the crash but confessed that initially he thought it was about to do a trick why it behaved so.
“It made kind of a U-turn and then there was a stream of smoke coming from it. It was tilting down toward the water I thought they were doing some sort of trick. I didn’t realize it at first but it was a plane crash.”
The area where the crash occurred is really close to where the “Miracle on the Hudson” happened, when a U.S. Airways commercial jet became carrying 155 people safely splash-landed in 2009. This crash was unfortunately, not as positive as the last. It seems that the World War II plane suffered a catastrophic failure and Gordon sent out a distress call before the plane crashed into the Hudson River. Witnesses say it sank in a matter of seconds.
According to the Charlotte Observer, New York Police Department Detective Michael Debonis said that it was not until three hours after the crash that scuba divers were able to recover the experienced pilot’s body from the submerged World War II plane. The NYPD positively identified the body of Bill Gordon.
This weekend, the American Airpower Museum will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the P-47 Thunderbolt, and Museum spokesman Gary Lewi said that usually the plane was kept at the museum and was released to take part in an air show at nearby Jones Beach this weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration revealed that the World War II plane which crashed near the George Washington Bridge was one of three planes taking part in the show, the P-47, a P-40 and a photo plane, and departed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, on Long Island, just east of New York City. Each of them were flying over the Hudson in order to shoot promotional material for the upcoming Jones Beach air show.
The other two aircraft were returned to the airport without incident and landed safely. The P-47, also called “Jacky’s Revenge,” is registered to Jeff Clyman, who referred all questions to Lewi.
The police divers stated that when they found the pilot in the water logged plane wreckage, it was with an open canopy which suggested that the man had tried to escape his confines. The police allegedly “reached in, found [a] foot and pulled him out.” The police also pulled a man who had dived into the river to help out and carried him to the hospital.
The Bethpage Air Show happening at Jones Beach this weekend was supposed to have a performance by Bill Gordon and the P-47. The two had performed at numerous events in the past, without incident.
[Photo Courtesy of Julie Jacobson/AP Images]