Passenger From LI Thought He Was Going To Drown

Local man says he stripped off his clothes and swam to safety

One passenger seated in the back of the plane said just a few hours after he escaped death that he thought he was going to drown in the chilly Hudson River Thursday.

"The water came up and it started to get close to my neck," Long Island resident Bill Zuhoski said. "I just thought I was going to drown right there in the back of the plane."

A Red Cross towel draped over his shoulders, Zuhoski, 23, described for reporters gathered at Roosevelt Hospital the brief period between takeoff and emergency landing.

"I noticed the stewardess in the back asking for a fire extinguisher, saying there was a fire," he said. "... Then everyone started to panic."

Zuhoski explained what happened next.

"You just heard the pilot say, 'Brace yourself for impact,'" he said. "How do you brace yourself for impact when you know your plane is going to crash?"

Zuhoski also said he was supposed to be on an earlier flight on a different airline, but a weather cancellation put him on the US Airways flight. He was planning to see a friend in Charlotte for the weekend.

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