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Air Show Pilot In Fatal Hudson River Plane Crash 'Lit Up Lives'

William Gordon
William Gordon Photo Credit: FACEBOOK photo
The NYPD confirmed the recovery of the pilot's body just before 10:30 p.m.
The NYPD confirmed the recovery of the pilot's body just before 10:30 p.m. Photo Credit: COURTESY: NYPD
The 40s-era Thunderbolt that crashed Friday is seen in this 2012 photo.
The 40s-era Thunderbolt that crashed Friday is seen in this 2012 photo. Photo Credit: COURTESY: American Airpower Museum
A North Bergen resident took this shot.
A North Bergen resident took this shot. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE photo: Clarence Ulysses Romero
The plane went down behind Frank's Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen.
The plane went down behind Frank's Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen. Photo Credit: GoogleMaps
Bill Gordon "lit up lives with his quiet warmth, graciousness, surprising humor, and overwhelming knowledge about everything."
Bill Gordon "lit up lives with his quiet warmth, graciousness, surprising humor, and overwhelming knowledge about everything." Photo Credit: FACEBOOK photo

A pilot whose vintage World War II plane crashed into the Hudson River south of Edgewater, New Jersey Friday night was identified early Saturday as 56-year-old air show veteran William Gordon, a New York State native from Florida.

Special operations divers with the NYPD's Harbor Unit SCUBA team recovered Gordon's body just before 10:30 p.m., NYPD spokesman J. Peter McDonald said.

Originally from the Columbia County town of Copake, N.Y., near the northwestern corner of Connecticut, Gordon was "a great guy who owned his own excavation company before flying full time," friend Bob Garon told Daily Voice.

"He and his son, Bill Jr., also a stunt pilot, often flew over Copake practicing for their shows, allowing all of us in Copake to enjoy their talents," Garon said.

Gordon "wasn't only a true aviator and a bad ass mechanic," friend Cari Miller posted on Facebook. "He lit up lives with his quiet warmth, graciousness, surprising humor, and overwhelming knowledge about everything. He raised an awesome son up right and was a proud doggy dad.

"There are so many far and wide in many communities that will feel his loss, especially his Key West family."

Gordon's Republic P-47 Thurderbolt, based at a Long Island museum, went down around 7:30 p.m. Friday behind Frank's Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen, just south of the Edgewater Marina and about two miles south of the George Washington Bridge, witnesses said.

A witness in Fort Lee told Daily Voice that she saw three planes headed north and then swoop south before authorities said the single-engine, single seat Thunderbolt went down across from the 79th Street boat basin in Manhattan.

The silver craft -- with a yellow-and-black checkerboard on its nose -- took off with the two other planes from its home at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, L.I.

The original P-47s, built by Republic Aviation in East Farmingdale from 1941-45, had four .50-caliber machine guns on each wing and could carry a 2,500-pound bomb payload, according to the museum.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it planned to try and lift the plane from the riverbed Saturday morning.

New Jersey State Police said they erred in originally reporting that the pilot was rescued. A would-be rescuer who jumped into the river from a passing sailboat after the crash was rescued, authorities said.

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