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25 April 2024

Southwest sends apology, $5K, to passengers on damaged jet


Southwest has sent a letter of apology, a $5,000 check and a $1,000 travel voucher to passengers who were on a flight that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after an engine exploded.

"Please accept our deepest apologies," Chairman Gary Kelly wrote in a letter dated April 18, a day after the accident.

An engine on a Southwest jet exploded Tuesday while the plane was flying from New York to Dallas, and debris hit it, causing extensive damage. Banking executive Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was fatally injured when she was sucked partway through a shattered window, sending passengers scrambling to help her as the aircraft shook violently and went into a rapid descent.

"We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs," Kelly wrote in his letter. "In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs."

"As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $1,000 travel voucher," he wrote.

Passenger Marty Martinez of Dallas said he has no immediate plan to cash the check. He wants to talk to a lawyer.

"I didn't feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don't think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime," he said Friday as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.

Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, said he did not have a problem with the letter. He said he appreciated he would not have to file claim forms.

After checking with his attorney, he decided he would cash his check.

"I just wanted to make sure I didn't preclude anything by taking the voucher or the check," he said.

The plane was carrying 144 passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the engine explosion.

A public memorial service for Riordan is set for Sunday in Albuquerque.

Plane passenger dilemma: Protect child or try to save victim

As Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 plunged, passenger Hollie Mackey was torn between trying to save a woman whose upper body was being sucked out of a broken window and protecting the child beside her from a similar fate.

When the flight’s engine blew on Tuesday and a window shattered, 149 passengers and crew members strapped on oxygen masks and waited as pilot Tammie Jo Shults steered them toward Philadelphia for an emergency landing.

For most people, the experience was filled with uncertainty as debris swirled down the aisle of the Boeing 737 and gusts of wind made it difficult to hear.

But for Mackey, a University of Oklahoma professor, there was nothing uncertain about what happened to Jennifer Riordan, the only person who died.

Mackey said she was in seat 14C and Riordan, a bank executive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in seat 14A, a window seat. Between them sat a young girl — likely middle school age, though smaller in size, Mackey noticed.

When the window blew, Riordan’s upper body was pulled out of the plane. Mackey said she and the child tried but failed to bring Riordan back in.

“The little girl with her itty bitty hands tried to help me,” Mackey remembered.

When the two couldn’t save Riordan, Mackey said, they just waited with her.

“All we knew we could do was stay with her and get her home,” she said.

To Mackey, it was a “godsend” when fellow passengers Tim McGinty and Andrew Needum tugged Riordan’s body back inside the cabin.

Needum, a Texas firefighter, said he heard commotion behind him and his wife nodded that it was OK to leave her and try to save Riordan. He refused to provide details about his rescue efforts out of respect for Riordan’s loved ones.

“I feel for her family,” Needum said. “I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that they lived in.”

Mackey said she and others are experiencing survivor guilt, especially because the airline allows passengers to pick their own seats.

“Why do we choose the seats we choose?” she asked. “Psychologically, I think there’s a lot going on.”

Mackey criticized some media outlets for oversimplifying the rescue efforts, when, she said, amid the chaos, the situation was far more complex.

“A lot of people,” she said, “made a lot of really difficult decisions.”

A boom, a whoosh of air and then terror on Flight 1380

There was a loud boom, and the plane started shaking violently. Air whooshed through the cabin, and snow-like debris floated down the aisle as oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Some passengers wondered if they would ever hug their children again. At least one bought in-flight Wi-Fi as the jet descended so he could say goodbye to his loved ones.

A blown engine on a Southwest Airlines jet Tuesday hurled shrapnel at the aircraft and led to the death of a passenger who was nearly blown out of a broken window of the Boeing 737.

The terrifying chain of events on Flight 1380 brought out acts of bravery among the 149 passengers and crew members and drew across-the-board praise for the cool-headed pilot who safely guided the crippled jet to an emergency landing in Philadelphia during the 22-minute crisis.


Alfred Tumlinson was traveling with his wife back to Corpus Christi, Texas, after attending a Texas Farm Bureau gala in New York City. About 30 minutes after the flight took off from La Guardia Airport, they heard a boom at about 32,000 feet over Pennsylvania, and the plane started descending.

A second bang followed, said Marty Martinez, a 29-year-old digital marketing specialist heading home to Dallas. That was when he saw a window blown out about two rows ahead of him on the other side of the plane.

Air rushed through the rapidly depressurized cabin, and “all this debris is flying in your face, down to the aisle of the plane, into the back of the plane,” Tumlinson said.

As those aboard frantically started putting their masks on and helping others with theirs, passengers and crew members rushed to reach a woman in the 14th row who was being blown out head-first through the opening, even though she was wearing a seatbelt, according to investigators.

By at least one passenger’s account, half her body was outside the plane.


A man in a cowboy hat, rancher Tim McGinty of Hillsboro, Texas, tore his mask off and struggled to pull the woman in. Andrew Needum, a firefighter from Celina, Texas, came to help, and the two of them managed to drag her back inside.

“It seemed like two minutes and it seemed like two hours,” McGinty told reporters, a bandage on an arm he scraped while trying to save the woman.

McGinty’s wife, Kristin McGinty, who was also on board, later told USA Today: “Some heroes wear capes, but mine wears a cowboy hat.”

When a flight attendant asked if anyone knew CPR, retired school nurse Peggy Phillips got out of her seatbelt, and she and the firefighter laid the grievously injured woman down. The two of them began administering CPR for about 20 minutes, until the plane landed.

Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old Wells Fargo bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, didn’t survive.

“If you can possibly imagine going through the window of an airplane at about 600 mph and hitting either the fuselage or the wing with your body, with your face, then I think I can probably tell you there was significant trauma,” Phillips told ABC.

The Philadelphia medical examiner said she died of blunt impact trauma of the head, neck and torso.


When the engine blew, it caused the plane to abruptly bank an alarming 41 degrees to the left, and the aircraft began to vibrate, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday.

Inside the cockpit, pilot Tammie Jo Shults calmly communicated the severity of the situation.

“Injured passengers, OK, and is your airplane physically on fire?” an air traffic controller could be heard asking in a recording of the transmissions.

“No, it’s not on fire, but part of it is missing,” Shults said. “They said there’s a hole and, uh, someone went out.”

The air traffic controller responded with seeming disbelief: “Um, I’m sorry, you said there was a hole and somebody went out?”

“Yes,” Shults said.


Some passengers took to social media to say their goodbyes to friends and family.

Matt Tranchin, who was heading home to Dallas, began texting his eight-months-pregnant wife and his parents that he loved them and telling them things he wanted his unborn son to know if the plane crashed and he didn’t make it.

Martinez decided to buy in-flight Wi-Fi service. He searched for his wallet, then found himself fumbling to enter his credit card information as the plane shook. He said it seemed to take him forever as he kept typing in the wrong numbers.

He eventually made a Facebook Live post showing him and other passengers with oxygen masks on, the wind whipping in the background. He said he went with Facebook Live instead of texting people individually because he wanted to communicate with as many loved ones as possible.

“I had this feeling that I wasn’t going to survive this, and having to think, who do I reach out to first? Do I text my mom, do I text my dad, my brother, my sister?” he said. “That was a very difficult position to be in, to think who is most important to your life and in what order?”


As the plane descended steeply but steadily toward Philadelphia, the cabin was noisy from the open window, but the passengers were mostly quiet, maybe because they had their masks on, said passenger Amanda Bourman, of New York.

“Everybody was crying and upset. 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!'” Bourman said. “I just remember holding my husband’s hand, and we just prayed and prayed and prayed.”

For Kristopher Johnson, a single thought flooded his mind: his wife and 13-month-old son Jakob.

“I thought it was the end of my life,” Johnson, an assistant principal at East Montana Middle School in El Paso, Texas, told People.com. “I thought I’d never be able to see my son or my wife or my family again. That was the first thing that rushed through my head.”

Kathy Farnan, a 77-year-old from Santa Fe, New Mexico, said people seated near her in the front, away from the damage, remained relatively calm. “There was no panic. Everybody was good. I think it was too early in the morning. People are running on half asleep,” she said.

Eric Zilbert, an administrator with the California Education Department, said even the children “did very well.”


Passengers praised Shults for her professionalism during the emergency. Shults, one of the first female fighter pilots in the Navy, was at the controls when the jet landed, according to her husband, Dean Shults.

She got a round of applause from the passengers after putting the plane down safely. She walked through the aisle and talked with passengers to make sure they were OK afterward.

“She has nerves of steel, that lady,” 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.”

One dead after jet blows an engine; woman nearly sucked out

Catastrophic engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas killed one person and forced an emergency landing Tuesday, the first fatal incident in US commercial aviation for nearly a decade.


The Boeing 737-700 took off without incident but minutes into the flight, passengers heard an explosion in the left engine, which sent shrapnel flying through the window, shattering the glass and leading oxygen masks to drop, witnesses said.

"We believe there were parts coming out of this engine," Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a news conference, confirming engine failure but no fire. "There is one fatality," Sumwalt said.

US media said seven people were slightly injured. The identity of the dead person was not immediately disclosed.


"We are saying this is an engine failure," Sumwalt said.

Southwest Airlines said flight 1380 had been en route from New York's LaGuardia domestic airport to Dallas Love Field with 144 passengers and five crew members onboard.

It landed at Philadelphia International Airport at 11:20 am (1520 GMT) after the crew reported damage to one of the engines, the fuselage and at least one window, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

"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," the company said in a statement.

Family, friends and community leaders are mourning the death of Jennifer Riordan, a bank executive on a Southwest Airlines jet that blew an engine as she was flying home from a business trip to New York. (AP)

'Part of it's missing'

NBC News released a recording of what it identified as communications between air traffic control in Philadelphia and the pilot, giving dramatic insight into what witnesses called a terrifying flight.

"We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we're going to need to slow down a bit," said a woman, who appeared to be the pilot. "Use caution for the downtown area," replies air traffic control.


"Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well? We've got injured passengers," says the voice from the plane.

"Is your airplane physically on fire?" asks air traffic control.

"No, it's not on fire but part of it is missing. They said there is a hole and someone went out," the pilot replies.

"Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down!" wrote passenger Marty Martinez on a Facebook live-stream that showed him looking panicked and breathing through oxygen mask.

"Engine exploded in the air and blew open window 3 seats away from me. Explosion critically injured woman sitting in the seat next to the window," he added.


Shrapnel blew out a window in row 17, injuring the woman and leading to the immediate deployment of the oxygen masks. The woman was later stretchered off the plane, he said.

US television footage showed the jet on the tarmac at Philadelphia as officials swarmed around the fuselage examining the stricken engine, manufactured by CFM, a joint venture between French company Safran and America's General Electric.

'Blood everywhere'

"There's blood everywhere," Martinez told CBS News, recounting his terrifying experience, after his live stream with the help of on board wifi.

"All of a sudden we heard an explosion," he told CBS. "There was a boom and within five seconds the oxygen masks dropped."

"I thought I was cataloging the last moments of my existence," he said of his Facebook transmission. "It was absolutely terrifying."

Passengers tried in vain to plug the hole in the window as the plane started to plummet and tilt in turbulence with flight attendants crying and passengers instructed to brace for landing, Martinez said.

"It just felt like a free fall," he said. "It was the scariest experience." The woman was hit by flying shrapnel, causing her to pass out and bleed, Martinez told CBS.

It was the first fatal incident in US commercial aviation since the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009, a Bombardier Dash-8 on a scheduled flight from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York. Fifty people were killed.

Aviation experts drew comparisons on US television to another engine failure on a Southwest Airlines 737 flight from New Orleans to Orlando in 2016, which precipitated an emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida.

"We want to look at this particular event and see what the factors are related to this. Maybe they're related to the previous event or maybe not. But we need to understand what's going on here," said the NTSB chairman.