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'We knew we were going down'

16 January 09 03:53 GMT

Shocked passengers who escaped from a US Airways Airbus A320 plane which ditched in New York's Hudson River have spoken of the moment the plane came down.

Some said they heard a loud bang seconds before the jet crashed into the freezing water.

"The engine blew. There was fire everywhere and it smelled like gas," passenger Jeff Kolodjay said.

"People were bleeding all over. We hit the water pretty hard. It was scary," he said.

One eyewitnesses described seeing flames coming from at least one of the engines of the plane.

Kevin Johns, a former aircraft engineer in the US military, saw the plane shortly before it crashed into the water.

He told the BBC: "When I saw it so low I thought right away of 9/11. I spend 11 months down at 9/11 and I saw that plane and it just freaked me out.

"But I knew when I looked up and I saw the flames, I knew it was a mechanical problem.

"When I first saw the plane I was scared about a terrorist thing - thinking maybe it was going for the GW [George Washington Bridge] or something, but it wasn't.

"I saw the flames and I knew it was in trouble and that's why I called 911 right away to let them know it was in trouble. I thought it was trying to head for Newark or something."

Passenger Alberto Panero said that minutes after take-off "the plane shook a bit and immediately, you could smell smoke or fire".

"All of a sudden, the captain came on and said, 'Brace for impact', and that's when we knew we were going down into the water," he told CNN.

"And we just hit and somehow the plane, you know, stayed afloat and we were able to get on the raft and - it's just incredible right now that everybody's still alive," Mr Panero added.

The plane crashed just minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Stephanie Nachman works in Times Square and saw the plane come down.

She told the BBC: "I was having a meeting with several people. I was the only one facing the window. Everyone looked at my face, they saw my jaw drop and they all turned around and we were all staring with our faces against the glass.

"I have to tell you it was remarkable. It literally looked as though it was coming in for a landing on a runway and I.. had the water been the ground, it would have appeared as though it was a safe and smooth landing. "

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