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Aviation

Passenger dies after plane engine explodes above US, partially sucking her out of shattered window

‘The top half of her torso was out the window...There was a lot of blood’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 4:28am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 9:09am

One person died when an engine blew out on a Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines jet mid-flight on Tuesday, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport, the airline and US officials said.

Todd Baur, the father of a passenger from the plane, said a female passenger was partially sucked out a window near the afflicted engine before being pulled back into the aircraft by other passengers.

That passenger was later identified as New Mexico bank executive Jennifer Riordan, who later died.

Television images showed that most of the outer casing around the left engine of the Boeing Co 737-700 had ripped away and a window near the engine on the plane’s left side was missing.

The New York Times quoted passenger Max Kraidelman as saying: “The top half of her torso was out the window...There was a lot of blood because she was hit by some of the shrapnel coming off the engine after it exploded.”

Another passenger, Marty Martinez, streamed the moments before the emergency landing on Facebook.

“Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!” he tweeted.

Martinez said on Facebook that he purchased the in-flight WiFi so he could reach his loved ones, thinking these might be his final moments.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt told a briefing that one death had been reported among the 148 people on the flight, but did not elaborate on the specific circumstances.

Flight 1380 from New York was diverted to Philadelphia after crew members reported damage to one of the aircraft’s engines, its fuselage and at least one window, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

It was the first passenger fatality on a US carrier since 2009, federal officials said, and the first passenger fatality in Southwest’s 51-year history.

“We do have information there was one fatality,” Sumwalt said at the media briefing.

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Southwest said the aircraft was bound for Dallas Love Field in Texas from New York’s LaGuardia Airport before it diverted to Philadelphia. It did not immediately provide an explanation for the diversion.

“We are in the process of transporting customers and crew into the terminal,” Southwest said in a statement.

A passenger on the flight described feeling the aircraft drop.

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

Major safety issues aboard US airlines are rare, with no accidental deaths recorded last year, according to groups that track crashes.

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Southwest shares fell more than 3 per cent after the NTSB reported the fatality, then cut losses and was last down 1 per cent on the New York Stock Exchange.

The aircraft’s maker, Boeing, said on Twitter that it was aware of the incident and was “gathering more information”.

The plane’s engines are made by CFM International, a French-US venture co-owned by Safran and General Electric, which was not immediately available for comment.

Marty Martinez, who said he was a passenger on the plane, posted images on his Facebook page of passengers wearing oxygen masks and later of a safety official on board the aircraft.

“It looks like an engine blew out, then a window was blown open,” he wrote.

Additional reporting by Washington Post