Venable Partner on Downed Jet: ‘I Truly Thought I Was Going to Drown’
Posted Jan 22, 2009 4:10 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Although passengers on a US Airways jet that crash-landed on the Hudson River a week ago were remarkably calm about trying to escape from the plane, it didn't look good to James Hanks Jr.
As he headed from his business class seat near the rear of the plane to the closest exit door behind him, the 65-year-old Venable corporate partner discovered that it was twisted and inoperable. And the frigid water inside the cabin, which was already waist-deep when he stood up from his seat, had quickly risen much higher, recounts an Am Law Daily post today .
"At that point, I truly thought I was going to drown," Hanks tells the law blog. "The water was up to my neck and there was only about six inches above my head to the ceiling. I just didn't see how a full flight of people could get out going forward before the water engulfed us."
As he moved forward, however, Hanks realized that the water level was going down, because the Airbus 320 was sinking at an angle, tail-first. By the time he got to a forward door, he was soaked but only the floor beneath his feet was wet. He walked out of the plane and onto a life raft in the wintry air outside, and, after being ferried to shore, returned more or less to his usual life—albeit without his document-laden briefcase, overcoat and BlackBerry.
While the US Airways experience obviously has been on his mind, Hanks says he flew home to Baltimore at the same time the next day on another US Airways flight without much trepidation.
Everyone on board escaped without serious injury, including a woman in a wheelchair. "I'm especially happy that everyone else survived," he tells the Am Law Daily. "I've found that now I can take a lot of joy and gratitude undiminished by the fact that anyone else died."
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