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Passengers grabbed woman sucked out of plane window in deadly explosion on Southwest Airlines jet

todayAugust 15, 2021 66

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18th Apr 2018 | Elizabeth Sasu

Passengers have been praised for clinging to a woman who was partially sucked out of a broken plane window after an engine blew at 32,000 feet, showering the jet with shrapnel.

Key points:

  • It is the first passenger fatality on a US airline since 2009
  • The plane landed after the crew reported damage to one of the engines
  • The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Philadelphia


A woman died and seven others suffered minor injuries in the incident, which happened shortly after the Southwest Airlines jet departed New York bound for Dallas.

Passengers said one female passenger was sucked headfirst out of a window which was shattered by debris from the engine.

Fellow passengers managed to drag her inside and tried to plug the hole while others gave her CPR.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the dead woman was the one who was sucked out of the window.

In a recording of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic controllers, an unidentified crew member reported there was a hole in the plane and “someone went out”.

Passenger Alfred 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.”

Another passenger, Eric Zilbert, an administrator with the California Education Department, said: “From her waist above, she was outside of the plane.”

Two female passengers told CNN the woman was hanging outside the plane for many minutes.

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 US airline since 2009.

At a press conference, Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly expressed his condolences.

“This is a sad day and our hearts go out to the family and the loved ones of the deceased customer,” Mr Kelly said.

“Out of all the hours of usage of the engines, over many, many years, this engine dates back to 1997.”

Praise for pilot with ‘nerves of steel’

The pilot of the plane, a twin-engine Boeing 737 with 149 people aboard, took it into a rapid descent and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia just before noon (local time) 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.”

Meet Southwest’s hero pilot

The heroic pilot who calmly landed a Southwest Airlines flight after a mid-air explosion is a former US Navy pilot who was once denied an aviation career on account of being a woman.


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,” Mr Tumlinson said.

“I’m going to send her a Christmas card, I’m going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome.”

Tracking data from FlightAware.com showed Flight 1380 was heading west over Pennsylvania at about 32,200 feet and traveling 800 kilometres per hour when it abruptly turned toward Philadelphia.

Ms Bourman said she was asleep near the back of the plane 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!'”

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the travellers did “some pretty amazing things under some pretty difficult circumstances”.

“We were very lucky to have such a skilled pilot and crew to see us through it,” Mr Zilbert said.

“The plane was steady as a rock after it happened. I didn’t have any fearing that it was out of control.”

National Transport Safety Bureau chairman Robert Sumwalt one of the engine’s fan blades had come off and said there was evidence of metal fatigue. He said the bureau was sending a team of investigators to examine the plane.

Southwest Airlines said it would inspect all similar engines in the next 30 days.

The head of Southwest Airlines said there were no problems with the plane when it was inspected two days ago.

Southwest has about 700 planes, all of them 737s, including more than 500 737-700s like the one involved in Tuesday’s emergency landing.

The Boeing 737 is the best-selling jetliner in the world and has a good safety record.

John Goglia, a former NTSB member, said investigators would take the Southwest engine apart to understand what happened and will look at maintenance records for the engine.

“There’s a ring around the engine that’s meant to contain the engine pieces when this happens,” Mr Goglia said. “In this case it didn’t. That’s going to be a big focal point for the NTSB. Why didn’t (the ring) do its job?”

View image on Twitter

NM Broadcasters@NMBA02

Our hearts are heavy with the news of the death of Jennifer Riordan today. Jennifer was a UNM graduate in the C&J department as well as a former NMBA Board member and NMBA Scholarship winner. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer’s family.

10:24 PM – Apr 17, 2018

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He said the Boeing 737 was a safe plane but engine failures occured from time to time.

“We’re pushing the engines to produce as much power as possible,” he said. “We’re right on the edge. Sometimes they fail, and that’s why the containment ring is there.”

The engine failure was reminiscent of a similar event on a Southwest Boeing 737-700 jet in August 2016 as it flew from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida.

Shrapnel from the engine left a 12cm-by-40cm hole just above the wing. Passenger oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Pilots landed the plane safely in Pensacola, Florida.

The last time a passenger died in an accident on a US airliner was 2009, when 49 people on board and one on the ground were killed when a Continental Express plane crashed on a house near Buffalo, New York.

Source: abc.net.au

Written by: Adwoa Sasu

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