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Man, Woman Out Of Hospital After Small Plane Crashes In Hudson River

Deniece Depriester Kok & Christopher Smidt Part Of Another Hudson 'Miracle'
Christopher Smidt, Deniece Kok (Credit: CBS 2)

Christopher Smidt, Deniece Kok (Credit: CBS 2)

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YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Two people left the hospital Monday after their single-engine plane crashed into the icy Hudson River off Yonkers on Sunday.

CBS 2 has learned the identities of the pilot and passenger recovering from what some are calling another “Miracle on the Hudson.”

The pilot has been identified as Deniece Depriester Kok, 39. A Federal Aviation Administration database lists her as a certified flight instructor. Her passenger was 43-year-old Christopher Smidt. Both are from New Jersey.

Depriester Kok and Smidt left the hospital and were back at their homes Monday night. Inside Smidt’s house, his friends told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider he was in bed by 8 p.m., exhausted and recovering.

As a boat searched Monday for the wreckage of the single-engine plane, the water temperature was still just a few degrees above freezing. So every minute in the river must have seemed like agony for pilot Depriester Kok and Smidt when the plane went down Sunday night.

The 911 emergency call made by Smidt is likely to play a key role in the investigation. Here are two excerpts:

SMIDT: “We’re in the plane. The plane is taking on water.”
911 OPERATOR: “OK. Is it possible for you to get out?”
SMIDT: “We can get out if we have to.”
SMIDT: “OK. I need you to get out….”
SMIDT: “The plane is going down. Let’s go. Get out. Get out. Get out. Going head first.”

The need to escape was soon replaced by the reality of the freezing waters.

SMIDT: “I need a boat. I’m not going to make it to shore.”
911 OPERATOR: “I’m sorry?”
SMIDT: “I’m not going to make it to shore.”
911 OPERATOR: “OK. We have an officer en route and we have a boat en route.”
SMIDT: “OK.”

Westchester County’s “60 Control” operator, Melissa Seymour, was doing everything she could to keep the two calm, and on the phone.

Depriester Kok and Smidt clutched onto their life jackets in the water. They were taken to Jacobi Medical Center after the crash.

A statement released by the survivors through the hospital stated: “We thank the first responders for their incredible response. We also thank the staff at Jacobi Medical Center for their excellent care. We look forward to going home soon.”

The pair was on a sightseeing trip when their plane crashed about 5:20 p.m., Yonkers Police Lt. Phil Collins said. They were both wearing life vests and were able to get out of the plane before it sank, Collins said.

Off-duty Yonkers police officer Dan Higgins was one of the first people on scene.

“They were drifting pretty quick,” he said. “I heard the lady say ‘I’m numb.’ She was very cold.”

Several off-duty Yonkers cops worked with a retired officer to grab a boat, and raced to the floating and freezing plane pilot and passenger.

“We didn’t see the plane. We saw the two victims in the water,” Higgins said. “The guy upfront identified the two victims in the water. We were able to approach them.”

Higgins’ son was also there. Together with several others, they managed to rescue two passengers.

“You worry about hypothermia setting in and their medical condition,” Higgins said.

They were in the water less than 30 minutes, officials said.

The plane, a single-engine Piper PA-32, took off from the Trenton-Robbinsville Airport. It was flying under visual flight rules and not receiving air traffic control services, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

The plane is registered to a man in Manalapan, but he told CBS 2 that he sold the plane last week.

The cause of the crash was under investigation Monday.

Members of the Yonkers Police Department who jumped into action will be honored Tuesday by the mayor.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)