Miracle on the Deegan
By David Greene
The stars must have been aligned perfectly as a single-engine fixed-winged plane with three passengers onboard made an emergency landing – in the northbound Major Deegan a 1/2 mile south of the East 233 Street exit.
The unusual incident was reported at 3:26 p.m., on Sat., Jan. 4, when a member of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit confirmed the incident, frantically telling his dispatcher, “Small plane down in the right two lanes.”
The difficult landing on the three-lane highway was made more difficult as the two outside lanes had less room than normal due to the recent snowfall.
Less than two minutes later, the officer told his dispatcher, “We are at the job. It looks like the airplane is in an upright position. We’re not confirming any injuries or not, but it looks to be a pretty good hard landing at this location.”
Partial credit for the averted tragedy goes to the road crew with the Department of Transportation, who were already blocking two lanes, filling potholes when they spotted the troubled plane. They quickly used their vehicles to block the third lane, so the pilot could land.
First responders removed the 50-year old male pilot and two female passengers, ages 43 and 20, who were transported to St. Barnabas Hospital with minor bumps and bruises. One of the passengers suffered a nasty bump on her head, but was expected to recover.
The Piper Cherokee PA-28 was built in 1966, took of From Danbury, Connecticut for a sightseeing trip around the Statue of Liberty. The group was returning to Connecticut when engine failure forced the aircraft down.
One Woodlawn resident ,who declined to give his name, explained a friend had seen a ticker across the television screen, adding, “We live a couple blocks away and we came over.”
Asked if he was surprised by the site, he replied, “Everything happens over here, you never know.”
The miracle landing was reminiscent of former American Airlines pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who set a jumbo jet down on the Hudson River back on January 15, 2009.
The incident was the first breaking news story of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. It prompted him to remark, “I thought I’d seen everything in my life,” and calling it, “a bit of a miracle.”