Former Discovery Networks U.S. president Billy Campbell was among the survivors of Thursday's US Airways crash into the frigid Hudson River in New York City.
Campbell was en route to visit his family for the weekend in Greenville, S.C., when Flight 1549 -- shortly after take-off from LaGuardia International Airport -- hit a flock of birds. Both the plane's engines were knocked out, but the skilled pilot managed to glide the aircraft into a smooth water landing, and all 155 passengers were rescued.
"Truly, the word is overused, but miraculous is the best way to describe it," Campbell told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, describing the plane's smooth landing and everyone's survival.
Campbell was interviewed on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night, and his hometown paper, The Greenville News, interviewed him as well in a story headlined "Christ Church Grad Recalls Plane's Harrowing Descent Toward Hudson."
A Time Warner Cable employee based in Charlotte, N.C., was also among the passengers who survived the crash.
Campbell told MSNBC that about five minutes after takeoff, he heard an explosion, and "there were a lot of flames and sparks" flying from the left engine. He was in window seat 25A, the next to the last seat.
Campbell, 49, said shortly thereafter, the pilot warned passengers to "prepare for impact."
Campbell told The Greenville News, "When you hear those words, which you've never heard in your life, you know that the entire equation has changed... I thanked the Lord for all the blessings, how lucky I've been and that I've had a wonderful life."
Campbell told Maddow that he saw that the pilot was flying down the Hudson River, not trying to return to La Guardia, which turned out to be "an incredibly fortuitous and brilliant move on his part."
After the plane hit, Campbell said he first tried to escape from a rear exit, but passengers and the stewardess couldn't open it. They went to the front of the aircraft, and Campbell got out into a raft. He told The Greenville News that he immediately used his Blackberry to call his father, so his family would know he was safe.
Campbell told Maddow he was one of the last passengers to leave the plane, and that he was with the pilot, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, and co-pilot in the raft. He said he thanked the pilot.
Campbell said he told the pilot, "I just want you to know that what you did saved my life and everyone's lives...He was very humble and he said, ‘You're welcome.'"
Campbell left Discovery Networks in 2007 in the wake of David Zaslav joining the company as CEO of Discovery Communications.
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