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Circled in white, US Airways Flight 1549 descends on its way to an emergency ditching in the Hudson River on Thursday after a bird strike apparently disabled both engines. ((Trela Media/Associated Press))

An investigation began Friday morning into what caused a plane to crash into the Hudson River near Manhattan, an incident in which all 155 people on board survived.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will have a lot of evidence to work with.

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Investigators brought in a giant crane and a barge Friday to help pull a US Airways jetliner from the Hudson River. ((Seth Wenig/Associated Press))

Large cranes are on standby, ready to haul the plane out of the water. It remains intact, having been tugged and docked at the southern tip of Manhattan by a fire department boat.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other witnesses said the plane was likely forced down after bird strikes disabled both engines. But nothing yet has been confirmed.

US Airways Flight 1549 had just departed from LaGuardia Airport in New York City on Thursday and was headed to Charlotte, N.C., when the pilot reported a "double bird strike."

Barely six minutes after takeoff the plane was headed for an emergency landing in New Jersey when the pilot ditched the plane in the river. He was able to land the plane safely and keep the fuselage intact.

"There was an explosion on the plane and we had to make an emergency landing in the water. They did a phenomenal job getting everybody out," said one passenger.

 

"The left engine just blew — fire, flames coming out of it and I was looking right at it because I was sitting right there and it started smelling a lot like gasoline," said another passenger. "And a couple minutes after that the pilot said, 'You guys got to brace for a hard impact.'

"And that’s when everyone started, to be honest, saying prayers and looked over the water — and we thought we had a chance because there was some water, and got to give it to the pilot, man, he did a hell of a landing."

Some passengers stood on the wing of the plane waiting for help as the plane floated in the water, while other passengers in the water had to be rescued. The most serious injury appeared to be a woman who suffered two broken legs.

The pilot, who is being hailed a hero, said he walked the length of the plane twice after the crash and was the last one up the aisle to make sure no one was behind him.

Although some people suffered injuries, in the end, everyone got out safely in what is being dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson."

With files from the Associated Press