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One dead, after engine explodes on Southwest flight


April 17. 2018 10:27PM
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 takes off at Los Angeles International Airport in 2015. (David Bro/Zuma Press/TNS)

Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport Tuesday morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines. (REUTERS/Mark Makela)

A passenger died Tuesday after being nearly sucked out of a Southwest Airlines jet when an engine exploded, sending shrapnel into the fuselage and shattering the window at the victim’s seat.

The Boeing 737, operating as Southwest Flight 1380, left New York’s LaGuardia Airport for Love Field in Dallas at 10:27 a.m. It made an emergency landing in Philadelphia at 11:23.

The broken window caused cabin depressurization that nearly pulled the woman out of the aircraft, according to witness accounts and local news media reports. She was pulled back in by other passengers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer identified the victim as Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, N.M., who worked as vice president of community relations at a Wells Fargo in New Mexico. The company confirmed her passing.

“We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” the plane’s captain, Tammy Jo Shults, told air traffic controllers in audio released on NBC News.

Asked by a controller if the jet was on fire, Shults responds it was not but added, “They said there is a hole and someone went out.”

Timothy Bourman, a 37-year-old pastor from the New York City borough of Queens said in a phone interview that he was in the rear of the plane when he heard a loud boom.

“All of a sudden, it felt like we dropped 100 feet,” Bourman told The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

“We were kind of out of control for a while. It seemed like the pilot was having a hard time controlling the plane. Honestly I think we just all thought we were going down.”

Bourman, who was flying with his wife, texted a family member to share a message with their three daughters.

As the plane descended into Philadelphia, the flight attendants told passengers to brace for impact. Bourman said he and his wife thought that was it.

“We’re just all really thankful to be alive right now,” he said. “Thankful to God, thankful to that pilot.”

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt told a news briefing in Washington that one person had been killed, but declined to elaborate.

“The entire Southwest Airlines family is devastated and extends its deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the customers, employees, family members and loved ones affected by this tragic event,” Southwest said in a statement.

The flight had 144 passengers and five crew members, Sumwalt said.

Seven other people were treated for minor injuries at the scene, said Philadelphia Fire Department spokesman Kathy Matheson.

The fatality on the flight, which originated at LaGuardia Airport in New York, was the first in a U.S. commercial aviation accident since 2009, according to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) statistics.

Flight 1380 was diverted to Philadelphia after crew members reported damage to an engine, the fuselage and at least one window, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

“Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming,” passenger Marty Martinez told CNN.

Martinez said objects flew out of the hole where the window had exploded, and “passengers right next to her were holding onto (the woman being pulled out). And, meanwhile, there was blood all over this man’s hands. He was tending to her.”

Television images showed that most of the outer casing around the left engine of the jet had ripped away and a window near the engine on the plane’s left side was missing.

“All of a sudden, we heard this loud bang, rattling, it felt like one of the engines went out. The oxygen masks dropped,” a passenger, Kristopher Johnson, told CNN. “It just shredded the left-side engine completely. ... It was scary.”

The airplane, a 737-700, entered service in 2000. The plane’s engines are made by CFM International, a French-U.S. venture co-owned by Safran and General Electric. Southwest Airlines said in a statement that it was accelerating its existing engine inspection program relating to the CFM56 engine family.

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