Flight 1549 passengers get baggage back after Hudson splash down

ByABC News
May 19, 2009, 7:21 PM

— -- It wasn't until after US Airways Flight 1549 had landed in the Hudson River, and passenger Karin Hill was stepping through an emergency exit onto the wing, that it hit her.

"I thought, 'My coat! My purse!' " she recalls. They were both back at seat 18E, where she was sitting Jan. 15 when the jetliner hit birds, destroying its engines and forcing it to ditch in the Hudson.

Then logic returned. "I can't get them," she thought. "I'm not going back there."

The 150 passengers left their belongings behind for the Hudson to claim as they scrambled onto life rafts and rescue boats and the jet sank beneath 50 feet of dirty water.

Hill, 24, a college student from Boulder, Colo., was flying home with boyfriend Chris Rooney after visiting friends and seeing the sights in New York City. She hurried off the plane wearing blue jeans, a sweater and boots, leaving her purse, backpack and a coat in the cabin and a suitcase in the cargo compartment.

Hill and other passengers never dreamed they would see their possessions again. But this month, Flight 1549 passengers are starting to get special deliveries: FedEx boxes containing dried and cleaned wallets, handbags, coats, cameras, jewelry, clothing, important papers, even toothbrushes rescued from a watery grave.

Inside Hill's FedEx box were her wallet and everything in it, a Swarovski crystal bracelet Rooney gave her for Christmas, a digital camera and souvenirs including a Playbill from the Broadway showWicked.

Seeing her things again "was bittersweet, because it brought back memories," she says. Although the camera broke, "I never thought I'd get those pictures back, and they were fine."

She was stunned to see clear images of the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Central Park and Tiffany, where she tried on engagement rings.