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NYC mayor fetes those who aided plane passengers
NEW YORK (AP) — Minutes after a US Airways jet plunged into the icy Hudson River, Vincent Lucante and his ferry crew leaned over to pluck two soaked and shivering babies from an emergency life raft floating near the plane's right wing.
The women holding the babies calmly handed the infant and toddler up to their rescuers, who took the children to the warmest area of the ferry and sought to warm them with blankets and the jackets off their backs.
"They started to cry, which is the best sound that we could hear, and everybody had smiles," Lucante said.
The New York Waterways port captain recounted his story of rescuing the plane's youngest passengers during a City Hall ceremony on Friday where civilian and uniformed rescuers were honored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
That company's ferries were among the first on scene of the Thursday afternoon disaster, and are credited with beginning the miraculous rescue that whisked all 155 passengers and crew to safety.
"This is a story of heroes, something straight out of a movie script," Bloomberg said. "But if it had been a movie, people probably wouldn't have believed it, it was too good to be true — the perfect landing, the phenomenal response, the rescue of every single person."
Bloomberg handed out certificates to about 25 people who helped with the rescue, and said he was saving a key to the city for the pilot of the plane, who was not able to attend because he was still helping with the investigation.
"His brave actions have inspired millions of people in this city and millions more around the world," Bloomberg said.
After the pilot landed the plane in the Hudson River, the reaction was quick.
Following the ferry boats — the first to arrive — the Fire Department of New York's marine 1 crew arrived within seven minutes and police were there in four, officials said.
New York Police Department divers told of finding a distressed woman clinging to the side of a ferryboat.
EMTs described how the frigid water and 20-degree air stepped up the race against time to get everyone out alive.
"If we weren't there in another few minutes and got them on board and got them warm, they could have died," said Emergency Medical Services Chief John Peruggia.
Vincent Lombardi, another New York Waterways captain, said when his ferry pulled up, some passengers were cheering, others were crying.
All of the rescuers at the City Hall ceremony said the overall mood was mostly calm and orderly, with very little chaos or panic.
Some said "'Get me out of the water, please, I'm cold,"' Lombardi recalled.