New Mexico woman dies after Southwest jet blows engine
Philadelphia – A Southwest Airlines jet blew an engine at 32,000 feet and got hit by shrapnel that smashed a window, setting off a desperate scramble by passengers to save a woman from getting sucked out. She later died, and seven others were injured.
Passengers dragged the woman back in as the sudden decompression of the cabin pulled her part way through the opening, but she was gravely injured.
The pilot of the plane, a twin-engine Boeing 737 bound from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, took it into a rapid descent and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia as passengers using oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling said their prayers and braced for impact.
“I just remember holding my husband’s hand, and we just prayed and prayed and prayed,” said passenger Amanda Bourman, of New York. “And the thoughts that were going through my head of course were about my daughters, just wanting to see them again and give them a big hug so they wouldn’t grow up without parents.”
The dead woman was identified as Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was the first passenger killed in an accident involving a U.S. airline since 2009. The seven other victims suffered minor injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Philadelphia.
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said the engine will be taken apart and examined to understand what caused the failure. Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window and a chunk gone from the left engine, including part of its cover.
Passengers commended one of the pilots for her cool-headed handling of the emergency. She walked through the aisle and talked with passengers to make sure they were OK after the plane touched down.
“She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her,” said Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas. “I’m going to send her a Christmas card . . , She was awesome.”
Tracking data from FlightAware.com showed Flight 1380 was heading west over Pennsylvania at about 32,200 feet and traveling 500 mph when it abruptly turned toward Philadelphia.
Bourman said she was asleep near the back when she heard a loud noise and oxygen masks dropped.
“Everybody was crying and upset,” she said. “You had a few passengers that were very strong, and they kept yelling to people, you know, ‘It’s OK! We’re going to do this!’”
In a recording of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic controllers, an unidentified crew member reported that there was a hole in the plane and “someone went out.”
Tumlinson said a man in a cowboy hat rushed forward a few rows “to grab that lady to pull her back in. She was out of the plane. He couldn’t do it by himself, so another gentleman came over and helped to get her back in the plane, and they got her.”
Passengers struggled to somehow plug the hole while giving the badly injured woman CPR.
Passengers did “some pretty amazing things under some pretty difficult circumstances,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.