In Depth

Woman dies after being partially sucked out of US flight

Plane made emergency landing after debris from exploded engine smashes window at 32,000ft

A woman has died after being partially sucked out of a plane when an engine blew up mid-flight between New York and Dallas.

The Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 was cruising at 32,000ft when parts of the engine exploded and smashed the window next to Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo bank executive from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Riordan “was sucked out of the plane, as fellow passengers fought to drag her back inside”, reports Sky News.

They managed to pull her back in, and plugged the gap in the window, but Riordan had been hit by shrapnel. The 43-year-old mother-of-two, who was travelling for business, died from her injuries shortly after the plane made an emergency landing, in Philadelphia. Seven other people were injured in the incident.

The passengers “were praised for their efforts to save Riordan, giving her CPR after they managed to pull her back in and plug the hole in the window”, says Sky News.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the would-be rescuers had done “some pretty amazing things under some pretty difficult circumstances”.

Other witnesses told how the pilot - identified as Tammie Jo Shults, one of the US Navy’s first female fighter pilots - expertly handled the danger.

“The pilot, Tammy Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly,” passenger Amanda Bourman wrote on Instagram, reports Daily Beast. Another passenger, Diana McBride Self, called Shults a “true American hero” for her “guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation”, adding that Shults spoke to each passenger personally after landing.

In an audio recording of the plane’s exchange with air traffic controllers in Philadelphia, a crew member “is heard to say the plane needs to slow down and an unidentified crew member reports that there is a hole in the plane and ‘someone went out’”, according to The Guardian.

Passenger Matt Tranchin told NBC how "the plane dropped immediately” and “ash was all around us”.

Another posted a Facebook Live video during the plane’s descent, with emergency oxygen masks dangling down in the cabin.

Riordan’s death is the first fatality from a US flight since 2009. The Albuquerque mayor, Tim Keller, said his thoughts and prayers were with her family. “Today, Albuquerque lost a thoughtful leader who has long been part of the fabric of our community,” Keller said in a statement.

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