6 Heroic Rescues, for the 10th Anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson”

On Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 made its unforgettable, emergency water landing.

January 14, 2019 5:00 am
 Rescue crews secure a US Airways flight 1549 floating in the water after it crashed into the Hudson River January 15, 2009 in New York City. The Airbus 320 craft crashed shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport heading to Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Rescue crews secure a US Airways flight 1549 floating in the water after it crashed into the Hudson River January 15, 2009 in New York City. The Airbus 320 craft crashed shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport heading to Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

It’s been 10 years since the “Miracle on the Hudson” when famed pilot Chesley Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles of US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Here’s a look back at that incredible feat and some of the other most heroic, and daring, rescues to have made headlines.

1. Miracle on the Hudson

miracle on the hudson flight 1549
Rescue crews secure US Airways flight 1549 floating in the water after it made an emergency landing in New York City’s Hudson River on January 15, 2009. The Airbus 320 aircraft lost power shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport when it collided with a flock of geese.. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

On January 15, 2009, 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549 left LaGuardia airport but only got as far as the Hudson River in New York City. That’s because not long after takeoff, the airplane struck a flock of Canada geese as it approached the George Washington Bridge. Both engines soon stopped functioning. Sullenberger, formerly a fighter pilot, radioed for help but quickly realized he wouldn’t have time to fly the plane to any nearby airports. Within minutes of “hard-landing” the plane down the middle of the river, the NY Waterway ferries Governor Thomas H. Kean and Thomas Jefferson arrived on the scene to rescue passengers stranded on inflated slides and life rafts. The entire flight crew was later presented with the Keys to the City by then-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

2. Baby Jessica rescued from a well

baby jessica
Rescuer rushes “Baby Jessica” rescued from a fall into a well that was only 8 inches wide. The young girl was trapped for three days before being pulled out and rushed to the hospital. (Getty)
Bettmann Archive

During the fall of 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure, nicknamed “Baby Jessica,” fell into a tiny well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas. Rescuers worked around the clock for three days to safely extract the desperate baby who was trapped 22 feet down inside an 8 inch-wide well casing. At one point, rescuers could hear the toddler singing “Winnie the Pooh.” A full 56 hours after she was discovered, the little girl was brought up to the surface and taken to the hospital.

McClure went through 15 surgeries after her rescue and needed to have a toe amputated (due to gangrene). But she has no first-hand memory of the incident.

3. Navy Seals kill Somali pirates who hijacked the Maersk Alabama

The US merchant ship Maersk Alabama berths in the Kenyan coastal city port of Mombasa on April 11, 2009. Pirates hijacked the ship as it sailed towards the port carrying food aid on April 8. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

After a four day standoff with Somali pirates who had taken over the cargo ship, US Navy SEAL snipers, through the darkness of night, fired off three shots killing three of the pirates who were holding the Maersk Alabama’s captain hostage inside a life boat. Captain Richard Phillips escaped unharmed from the incident. The fourth, surviving pirate was flown to the United States where he stood trial and was sentenced to almost 34 years behind bars. A movie about the hostage situation, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks was released in 2013.

4. Thai soccer team rescued from cave

Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach. (LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Eighteen days after entering the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand, 12 children and their soccer coach were finally rescued from the flooded caverns. The group had completed a soccer practice and wanted to explore the cave, which they had done so previously, when a monsoon struck, flooding the cave system and trapping the group nearly a mile from the cave’s entrance.

A world-wide rescue effort soon followed—including a belated contribution from billionaire tech guru Elon Musk. Thai Navy SEAL divers brought the boys food, water, and medicine as they prepared to extract each boy, one by one, out of the murky flood waters. The entire team, along with their coach, was successfully rescued from the cave, with the final boys appearing through the entrance on July 10, 2018. One Thai Navy SEAL diver died during the rescue of asphyxiation.

5. NASA’s Apollo 13 mission

Apollo 13 astronauts treading water as they await their recovery helicopter. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett

On April 11, 1970 Apollo 13 was rocketing towards the moon.

The Apollo was a combination of two separate spacecrafts: the orbiter Odyssey, where the crew lived on their way to the moon, and the lander Aquarius, which was designed to land and take off from the surface of the moon. On April 13th, while the crew was approaching the moon, a low-pressure warning signal was noticed by Sy Liebergot, the mission controller. To address the situation, Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert flipped a switch that would resettle the gas inside of one of the vessel’s hydrogen tanks, a common procedure. However, this time, a spark from an exposed wire ignited, causing an explosion that ripped through one hydrogen tank and damaging another.

The crew took steps to shutdown the Odyssey orbiter to conserve power for re-entry. As they made their way back to Earth, crew members moved to the Aquarius lander where temperatures dropped to near-freezing levels and water was rationed, all while astronaut Fred Haise developed a kidney infection.

Apollo 13’s crew was unsure if the spacecraft’s heat shield was properly functioning as they approached Earth’s atmosphere. Luckily for them, it functioned as normal and the crew plopped down into the Pacific Ocean on April 17th, 4 days after the explosion occurred. Except for weighing a few pounds less than when they left, the crew was unharmed.

6. Trio of lions rescue girl from kidnappers

Three lions chased away a group of kidnappers who abducted a 12-year-old girl on her way home from school. The lions stood watch over her until police arrived on the scene. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LightRocket via Getty Images

In 2005, a 12-year-old girl in Ethiopia was snatched by kidnappers while she was walking home from school. As police were in pursuit, the kidnappers stumbled across a trio of lions who chased the child-snatching monsters off.

The lions then remained, protecting the young girl until police approached: “They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” Segeant Wondmu Wedaj told the BBC.

The rescued child told police that the kidnappers had beaten her, but the lions did her no harm.

“Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people,” Wondimu noted.

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