Southwest Airlines engine explosion: Passengers worked together to pull woman back into plane

Ms Jennifer Riordan, who was on the Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, died after she was nearly sucked out of the plane when an engine exploded, shattering a window and causing cabin depressurisation.
Ms Jennifer Riordan, who was on the Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, died after she was nearly sucked out of the plane when an engine exploded, shattering a window and causing cabin depressurisation.PHOTO: MARTY MARTINEZ/FACEBOOK
Ms Jennifer Riordan, who was on the Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, died after she was nearly sucked out of the plane when an engine exploded, shattering a window and causing cabin depressurisation.
Ms Jennifer Riordan, who was on the Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, died after she was nearly sucked out of the plane when an engine exploded, shattering a window and causing cabin depressurisation.PHOTO: MARTY MARTINEZ/FACEBOOK

NEW YORK • The woman who died when an engine exploded on a Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday was nearly sucked out of the aircraft when cabin pressure was lost after a window shattered, but was pulled back in by other passengers.

"The top half of her torso was out the window," said Mr Max Kraidelman, 20, a college student who was on the flight from New York. "There was a lot of blood because she was hit by some of the shrapnel coming off the engine after it exploded."

Mr Kraidelman said passengers and flight attendants struggled "to drag her back into the aircraft".

A man in a cowboy hat rushed forward a few rows "to grab that lady to pull her back in", fellow passenger Alfred Tumlinson told the Associated Press. "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."

Mr Marty Martinez, who was also on the flight, said some passengers tried to plug the hole with jackets and other objects, but those were also sucked out of the plane.

According to CNN, the flight data recorder showed the plane was at 32,500 feet when the engine failed about 20 minutes into the flight.

Another passenger Amanda Bourman described the scene to The Aiken Standard: "Everybody was crying and upset. You had a few passengers who were very strong, and they kept yelling to people, you know, 'It's OK! We're going to do this!'"

 

After the woman was pulled back in, she was unconscious and seriously injured, and flight attendants and passengers tried to revive her.

Upon seeing the scene, one flight attendant began to cry, Mr Matt Tranchin told The New York Times.

"I think, like most passengers, I thought I was going to die," said Mr Tranchin, 34, adding that he spent precious minutes texting goodbyes to people important in his life.

"It's a wild experience," he said. "It's not a couple minutes of freaking out and frantically saying goodbye; it's 25 minutes of sustained fear that this was the end.

"What do you say to your pregnant wife and your parents in your final moments?" he added. "That's what I was trying to figure out."

As the plane descended, "it was shaking, it was vibrating, it was tilting to one side", Mr Kraidelman said.

Mr Tranchin said that the passengers were repeatedly told to "brace for impact".

"At that point," Mr Tranchin said, "I thought I had a better than 50-50 chance of surviving.

"You can see the ground, we're level," he continued. "It's a crash landing, but it's doable."

Ms Bourman said she saw emergency workers use a defibrillator to help the woman after she was taken off the plane when it landed. She also saw the man in the cowboy hat with a bandage around his arm after the plane landed in Philadelphia.

The dead woman was identified as Ms Jennifer Riordan, a vice-president of community relations for Wells Fargo & Co in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She leaves behind a husband and two children.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline 'Passengers worked together to pull woman back into plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe