Airline engine blows up over US, kills passenger

The stricken airliner made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the left engine of the Boeing 737 blew apart in mid-flight. (AP photo)
The stricken airliner made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the left engine of the Boeing 737 blew apart in mid-flight. (AP photo)

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania: A Southwest Airlines jet blew an engine at 32,000 feet and sent shrapnel through the airplane's window, setting off a desperate scramble by passengers to save a woman from getting sucked out.

She later died, and seven others were injured.

Passengers dragged the woman back in as the sudden decompression of the cabin pulled her part way through the opening, but she was gravely injured.

The pilot of the plane, a twin-engine Boeing 737 bound from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, took it into a rapid descent and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia as passengers used oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling, said their prayers and braced for impact.

The death ended a nine-year span for US commercial aviation without a fatality - almost 100 million US-operated airline flights, carrying several billion people.

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 U.S. airline since 2009. The seven other victims suffered minor injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Philadelphia.

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," said Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas. "I'm going to send her a Christmas card, with a gift certificate, for getting me on the ground. She was awesome."

Tracking data from showed Flight 1380 was heading west over Pennsylvania at about 32,200 feet (10 km) and travelling at 500 mph (800 kph) when it abruptly turned toward Philadelphia.

Passenger Amanda Bourman said she was asleep near the back when she heard a loud noise and oxygen masks dropped.

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

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."

Passengers struggled to somehow plug the hole while giving the badly injured woman CPR.

Passengers did "some pretty amazing things under some pretty difficult circumstances," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.

As the plane came in for landing, everyone started yelling to brace for impact, then clapped after the aircraft touched down safely, Bourman said.

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

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  • abruptly: suddenly and unexpectedly, and often unpleasant - อย่างกะทันหัน
  • aisle (noun): a long narrow space between rows of seats in a church, aircraft, train, cinema, etc. - ทางเดินระหว่างที่นั่ง (ในโบสถ์, โรงภาพยนตร์, เครื่องบิน)
  • brace for (verb): to get ready for something, usually something unpleasant or difficult to deal with - เตรียมรับมือ
  • cockpit: enclosed space for a pilot in an airplane - ที่นั่งคนขับ
  • coolness (adjective): staying calm, not getting excited or upset or nervous - ควบคุมอารมณ์
  • CPR (noun): 'cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ (breathing air into the mouth of an unconscious person and pressing on their chest to keep them alive by sending air around their body) - การปั๊มหัวใจ
  • decompression: when the cabin of airplane is opened and air pressure inside plane becomes dangerously same as outside high altitude pressure -
  • descent: going down - การลงมา
  • fatality: a death caused by an illness, accident, crime or war - การเสียชีวิต
  • gravely: very serious; very dangerous - อย่างวิกฤติ, อย่างร้ายแรง
  • impact (noun): the force with which one object hits another - แรงกระแทก
  • waist: the middle part of the body that is narrower than the parts above and below   - เอว
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