CATSKILL – A small aircraft was seen crashing into the Hudson River off Catskill, at approximately 4:30 Thursday afternoon. Witnesses say it burst into flames shortly after impact, and became submerged within 10 minutes.
Emergency responders cordoned off both sides of the river, Main Street in Germantown on Columbia County's east bank; and the area near Lehigh Northeast Cement factory in Catskill, on Greene County's western shore.
No plane or survivors were recovered as of sundown.
"People saw a plane touch down on the water, saw some flames, and called us," said State Police Captain Robert Patnaude.
"Debris was found floating on the river. They believe they know where the plane hit, so we marked that area," he said. "We're getting divers together, and a Hazmat team to get out there, because there's some plane fuel on the water. We believe that will disperse. Once that does, we'll be able to start a recovery mission.”
Patnaude said that aircraft pontoons were among the debris and they suspect the victim to be local pilot who took off from Columbia County Airport.
Kierlan Donohoe of Germantown heard an engine sputtering, and saw what appeared to be a small plane.
"I saw it coming down, but I thought it was an amphibious plane coming to land in the water," Donohoe said. "I looked away, and heard a crash, and looked back and knew that it just crashed.”
The young girl’s mother, Libby Donohoe, was also watching from outside their home.
"It burst into flames, it smoked, and then within literally five or 10 minutes, it was gone," she said.
The family resides on a scenic bluff overlooking the crash site.
Emergency responders will be out on the river today looking for the wreckage of the plane.