WWII-era Small Plane Crashes in NYC's Hudson River, Body Recovered

The deceased pilot has been identified as William Gordon of Key West, Florida.

ByABC News
May 28, 2016, 7:07 AM

— -- A World War II-era single-seat fighter plane crashed in the Hudson River Friday evening, and the 56-year-old pilot's body was subsequently recovered by divers, police said.

NYPD identified the pilot as William Gordon of Key West, Florida. He was removed from the water and declared deceased by the EMS.

The NYPD said the plane, which took off from an airport in Suffolk County, went into the water around 7:30 p.m. A distress signal was issued.

The plane was recovered and secured to a harbor launch. New Jersey State Police initially said that the pilot suffered minor injuries and was en route to the hospital, but the agency said later it could not confirm that.

The exact circumstances of the crash -- about two miles south of the George Washington Bridge -- were not clear, and the investigation is ongoing.

The FAA said that the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft was one of three that had departed from Republic Airport on Long Island. The two other aircraft returned to the airport safely, the FAA said.

The plane had been based at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, New York, on Long Island, for the past 16 years and was scheduled to participate in the Jones Beach Air Show on Saturday.

On Friday, the aircraft flew twice before the crash.

“It certainly has a solid performance history,” American Airpower Museum spokesman Gary Lewi said of the plane. He added that the aircraft showed "no sign whatsoever, or any suggestion of a problem" and if it had, it wouldn't have been allowed to make a third flight.

The P-47 was the heaviest single-engine fighter in WWII, according to the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island.

"Despite its size, the P-47 proved to be one of the best performing fighters to see combat," the Cradle of Aviation Museum's website said. "Produced in greater numbers than any other U.S. made fighter, the story of how it came to exist is at least as interesting as its many accomplishments."

"The mighty Thunderbolt broke the back of the Luftwaffe and pounded the Wehrmacht without mercy," the museum added.

Lewi said that some 9,000 of the plane were built on Long Island during WWII, but that there were very few that were left.

“It’s a legend," he said. "There are not that many left flying in the world.”