01/16/09 — Ex-Cell CEO on Flight 1549

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Ex-Cell CEO on Flight 1549

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 16, 2009 1:46 PM

The chief executive officer of a company operating in Goldsboro was one of 155 people on the US Airways flight that crashed Thursday afternoon in the Hudson River in New York.

Barry Leonard, president and CEO of Ex-Cell Home Fashions, was flying home to Charlotte from the company's office in New York when Flight 1549 went down.

All 150 passengers and five crew members survived the Airbus A320 crash.

Ex-Cell Fashions' chief financial officer Cliff Campbell described Leonard as a close friend.

"He's a very good friend of mine," said Campbell. "He is very important to the success of this company."

Campbell said he watched Leonard's appearance today on "Good Morning America."

"He appears to be fine," said Campbell. "He seems to be in good spirits."

The physical stress of the crash did take its toll on the CEO. Leonard was hospitalized for treatment of minor injuries following the crash.

"He seemed a little sore," said Campbell.

Campbell didn't know when Leonard will return home to Charlotte.

Leonard is a Raleigh native and graduated from North Carolina State University.

The Wayne County Development Alliance named Ex-Cell, which manufactures and distributes home and bathroom furnishings to companies such as Wal-Mart and Target, the 2006 Industry of the Year. Beginning operations in 1962, the company employs about 200 people and is part of the New York-based company Glenoit Universal, Ltd.

Investigation into the cause of the crash is still ongoing, as officials brought a giant crane and barge today to help pull the jet from the Hudson River.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators will now focus on recovering the black box from the plane and interviewing the crew about the accident -- apparently caused by birds that slammed into the plane's two engines. The Airbus A320, built in 1999, was tethered to a pier on the tip of Lower Manhattan this morning. Only a gray wing tip could be seen jutting out of the water near a Lower Manhattan sea wall. About a block away, it was business as usual as residents jogged or headed to work.

Pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III and co-pilot Jeff Skiles and crew have become instant heroes for guiding the plane to safety and safely evacuating the passengers.

Sullenberger, 57, of Danville, Calif., is a former Air Force fighter pilot who has flown for US Airways for 29 years.

US Airways chief executive Doug Parker said in a statement it was premature to speculate about the cause. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said there was no immediate indication the incident was "anything other than an accident."

It was a chain of improbability. Birds tangle with airplanes regularly but rarely bring down commercial aircraft. Jet engines sometimes fail -- but both at once? Pilots train for a range of emergencies, but few, if any, have ever successfully ditched a jet in one of the nation's busiest waterways without any life-threatening injuries.

"We had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a miracle on the Hudson," Gov. David Paterson said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.