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First Coast Connect: ‘Miracle On The Hudson' Survior Talks About 'Sully'

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Kevin Meerschaert
/
WJCT
Jacksonville's Donald C. Jones speaks with Melissa Ross about his experiences during the 'Miracle on the Hudson.

As the CEO of Jacksonville-based American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, Donald C. Jones does a lot of traveling.

His flight out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009 was delayed a couple of hours due to the weather, but once the skies cleared the take off started out normal.

But 90 seconds later US Airways Flight 1549 lost both engines when it struck a flight of geese and was forced to land in the cold and icy Hudson River.

“Out of nowhere there was this shudder,” Jones said. “I’ve described it as a really strong rumble.”

Jones said the lights flickered and everything went silent. He eventually was in the water hanging on to part of the wing awaiting rescue.

Everyone onboard survived what became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” The pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was praised as a hero for his quick thinking and calm manner in avoiding tragedy.

The movie “Sully,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks, tells the story of the crash and its aftermath.               

Jones saw the movie with his wife last week when it premiered. Appearing on First Coast Connect on Wednesday, he said the film was a very realistic portrayal of what happened that day.

“What I kind of expected is when they do movies that it might be over dramatized, this was very accurate,” he said. “I was very pleased with the way they did it. They both did a great job. Tom Hanks really portrayed Sully very closely in personality. What you saw in Tom Hanks is what you get in Sully’s personality.”

Jones said it’s accurate to describe what happened that day as a miracle. He said a combination of factors from the river being calm after the snowstorms moved through, the design of the plane that kept it from sinking to Sullenberger’s unique training in water landings is why there were no fatalities.

Jones still flies often as part of his job but always feels a little nervous during takeoffs. He said the crash was a wake-up call as to how uncertain life can be.

“Now I hate geese,” he said. 

Producer Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at kmeerschaert@wjct.org, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax