Wednesday 17 October 2018

Family’s lament for woman who died after midair plane drama

Efforts were made to revive Jennifer Riordan after she was almost sucked out of a window broken by shrapnel from an engine.

Passengers said Jennifer Riordan was partially sucked out of a window (Marla Brose/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
Passengers said Jennifer Riordan was partially sucked out of a window (Marla Brose/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

By Alexandra Villarreal and David Koenig

The family of a woman who died on a Southwest Airlines flight has said the mother of two was full of “vibrancy, passion, and love”.

Jennifer Riordan’s family said in a statement that the 43-year-old community leader died on a plane that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Passengers said Ms Riordan was partially sucked out of the window after the plane was hit by engine debris.

The family called Ms Riordan the “bedrock of our family” and asked those mourning her to “be kind, caring and sharing” in her honour.

The death generated an outpouring of grief from business leaders, elected officials, poets, and activists in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce held a moment of silence during a special reception for new University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes.

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez said the hearts of all New Mexicans were with Ms Riordan’s family.

The passenger plane blew an engine at 32,000ft and got hit by shrapnel that smashed a window, causing her to be partially sucked out of the window.

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Southwest Airlines Victim

The incident sparked a desperate scramble by passengers to save her from getting pulled out of the plane by the sudden decompression, but she later died and seven others were injured.

Retired registered nurse Peggy Phillips told WFAA-TV that she performed CPR on Ms Riordan, a Wells Fargo employee, for about 20 minutes, until the plane landed in Philadelphia.

She said that shortly after take-off “we heard a loud noise and the plane started shaking like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

“It sounded like the plane was coming apart, and I think we pretty quickly figured out that something happened with the engine.”

She said they started losing altitude and the masks came down and “basically I think all of us thought this might be it”.

She then heard a lot of commotion a few rows behind her.

“It was a lot of chaos back there, a lot of really upset people and a lot of noise, and a big rush of air, a big whoosh of air,” Ms Phillips said.

After a flight attendant asked if anyone knew CPR, Ms Phillips and another medical technician performed CPR until the plane was on the ground.

“If you can possibly imagine going through the window of an airplane at about 600mph 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,” Ms Phillips said.

The pilots of the Southwest Airlines plane, a twin-engined Boeing 737 flying from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, took it into a rapid descent and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Passengers using oxygen masks said their prayers and braced for impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary examination of the blown engine from Flight 1380 showed evidence of “metal fatigue”.

In a news conference, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said one of the engine’s fan blades was separated and missing.

The blade was separated at the point where it would come into the hub and there was evidence of metal fatigue.

As a precaution, Southwest said it will inspect similar engines in its fleet over the next 30 days.

Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window and a chunk gone from the left engine, including part of its cover.

Mr Sumwalt said part of the engine covering was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia.

Press Association

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