Hudson River Landing Passenger To Speak At United Way Meeting

OSWEGO, NY – Talk about a numbing experience.

Dave Sanderson
Dave Sanderson

Passenger Dave Sanderson first felt the cold water on his feet only moments after US Airways Flight 1549 hit the icy Hudson River on Jan. 19, 2009.

Within minutes, the frigid water rose from his ankles to knees.

Seated four rows behind one of the plane’s wings, Sanderson was among the last passengers to exit the sinking aircraft.

“I didn’t have any feeling in the lower half of my body because I was waist deep in water for seven minutes,” he said. “I never got on the wing. I never got in a lifeboat.”

Sanderson, 48, eventually swam to a ferry, and spent a night thawing out in Palisades Medical Center, North Bergen, N.J.

“Thank God my parents gave me swimming lessons,” he now tells church, corporate and civic groups across the country.

Sanderson, an Oracle sales manager from Charlotte, N.C., will share his survivor’s tale at the United Way of Greater Oswego annual meeting.

Sponsored by Alliance Bank, the meeting will be held March 17 at The American Foundry, 246 W. Seneca St. in Oswego.

The breakfast meeting is scheduled for 7:45 – 9 a.m.

Call 593-1900 for details.

Sanderson thanks many folks for helping him survive the icy river crash of US Airways Flight 1549.

“The true heroes that day were the first responders, and the American Red Cross was one of the first responders,” Sanderson said. “They were there within 10 to 15 minutes after this thing happened.”

Red Cross representatives also met Sanderson when he returned to Charlotte after the plane crash.

“They were there with my family, along with US Airways and a chaplain,” he said.

“Sanderson is a very, very nice guy who expresses himself well about what he and his fellow passengers went through,” said Marci Henderson, regional CEO of the American Red Cross.

He is one of 25 passengers and first responders who have shared their inspiring stories of life after “the miracle on the Hudson” in a book just released called “Brace for Impact.”

Sanderson helped a number of Flight 1549 passengers escape their Airbus A320 after birds clogged and disabled the plane’s engines.

Some people climbed into the plane’s inflatable lifeboat.

Others walked onto the plane’s slippery wings.

All 155 people on the plane survived the Thursday afternoon river landing.

US Airways Flight 1549 hits the icy Hudson River on Jan. 19, 2009 (AP Photo).
US Airways Flight 1549 hits the icy Hudson River on Jan. 19, 2009 (AP Photo).

Sanderson was hanging onto the plane with one arm and holding onto the plane’s lifeboat with his other arm when a tugboat bumped the aircraft and Sanderson felt cold water wash up his back.

“I felt the water go over my head and thought, ‘This thing (the plane) is going down,’ and I started to swim, just to get away from the plane,” he said.

Sanderson remembers swimming “eight or nine strokes” to a nearby ferryboat.

Fright, however, then gripped Sanderson.

“I was so cold because I had been in the water so long. I couldn’t feel anything,” he said. “That was probably the freakiest moment. I was numb. … I was by myself.”

Within minutes, Sanderson arrived at a dock in New Jersey where emergency medical technicians and a Red Cross worker carried him to a triage room and removed his wet clothes.

After checking his blood pressure — it was 190/120 — they sent him by ambulance to Palisades Medical Center.

“A doctor was waiting for me,” Sanderson said. “My core temperature was 94 degrees. It took them five hours to thaw me out. I couldn’t do anything.”

That night, a Red Cross worker brought sweat pants, a sweatshirt, stocking cap and tennis shoes to Sanderson’s hospital room.

“I had no clothes,” he said. “They basically had cut them off of me because they froze to my body.”

Sanderson flew home to Charlotte, N.C., the next morning.

He still flies about 100,000 miles per year on business trips.

He accepts no fee for speaking on behalf of the American Red Cross.

“We are honored to have Mr. Sanderson as our guest speaker and thankful for our collaboration with the Onondaga-Oswego Chapter of the American Red Cross for making his appearance possible. We are happy to count the Onondaga-Oswego Chapter of the American Red Cross among our member agencies and provide them with much needed funding for disasters and emergencies that may arise in our area,” said executive director of the United Way of Greater Oswego County Melanie Trexler.

The United Way’s annual meeting is open to the public.

The cost to attend the event is $15 per person and includes a complete breakfast.

For more information or to make reservations, call 593-1900 or e-mail [email protected] no later than March 12.