Thursday 24 May 2018

Woman killed in jet tragedy remembered as selfless

Jennifer Riordan after she was almost sucked out of a window broken by shrapnel from an engine.

Woman dies in plane accident
Woman dies in plane accident

By Associated Press Reporters

A New Mexico bank executive who died on a Southwest Airlines flight has been remembered as a dedicated mother of two whose “vibrancy, passion, and love” infused her community in Albuquerque.

Jennifer Riordan’s family said in a statement that the 43-year-old community leader died on Tuesday on a flight heading from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after its engine blew in midair and shrapnel hit the plane.

A retired registered school nurse said she performed CPR on Mrs Riordan, who passengers say was partially blown out of a damaged window on the jet.

Mrs Riordan was killed by blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso and her death was ruled accidental, according to James Garrow, spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Health.

Mrs Riordan’s death generated an outpouring of grief and public sympathy from Albuquerque business leaders, state elected officials, educators, writers and activists — all who portrayed Ms Riordan as gracious and selfless.

“Jennifer’s vibrancy, passion, and love infused our community and reached across our country,” her family said. “Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured. But foremost, she is the bedrock of our family.”

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Southwest Airlines Victim

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

Albuquerque’s former poet laureate and slam poetry champion Hakim Bellamy posted on social media that Mrs Riordan was a friend to him. “It doesn’t seem fair,” he said in a tweet.

Erin Muffoletto said Mrs Riordan was a fellow Chi Omega sorority sister whom she contacted during the economic crisis in 2008 as Ms Muffoletto struggled to find steady employment.

“She encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, looked over my resume and really pushed me,” said Ms Muffoletto, who eventually became a sought-out lobbyist in the New Mexico Statehouse.

Muffoletto said she spoke with Mrs Riordan just days ago. “The last thing she told me was, ‘I’m proud of you’,” Ms Muffoletto said.

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Woman dies in plane accident

Rebecca Avitia, the executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, said that losing Mrs Riordan casts a dark, heavy emptiness on the city.

“I’ve heard of references in Mesoamerican lore to a female spirit who appeared to people in need like a blazing sun with wings. In Albuquerque, that was Jennifer Riordan,” Avitia wrote in online post. “Jennifer, I already miss you.”

Mrs Riordan was well known in New Mexico, where she built a career over more than two decades in community relations and communications after graduating from the University of New Mexico.

At the time of her death, Mrs Riordan was a vice president for community relations with Wells Fargo. She oversaw the company’s corporate giving program in New Mexico and volunteered her time with a number of area non-profit groups and boards.

Mrs Riordan was appointed by the governor to a board focused on boosting volunteerism statewide and in 2015 was presented the Bill Daniels Award for Ethical Young Leadership by the Samaritan Counselling Ethics in Business Awards.

“As a parent, I’ve said to my kids, ‘Be kind, loving, caring and sharing, and all good things will come to you’,” she told the Albuquerque Journal when she accepted the award.

Mrs Riordan also served on the boards of Junior Achievement of New Mexico, New Mexico First and The Catholic Foundation.

Erin Hagenow, Junior Achievement’s president, said Mrs Riordan was unmatched in her passion for the organisation’s mission and the students it serves.

“Our work going forward will forever be a testament to Jennifer’s belief in the potential of every young person,” Ms Hagenow said.

Mrs Riordan and her husband, Michael Riordan, a former chief operating officer for Albuquerque under former Mayor Richard Berry, had been married for more than 20 years.

Later on Wednesday, US airline regulators said they will order inspections on engine fan blades like the one that snapped off and triggered the fatal accident.

The move by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) comes nearly a year after the engine manufacturer recommended the additional inspections, and a month after European regulators ordered their airlines to do the work.

In a brief statement, an FAA official said the agency will issue an order in the next two weeks to require ultrasonic inspection of fan blades on some CFM56-7B engines after they reach a certain number of take-offs and landings. Blades that fail will have to be replaced, the agency said.

It is not clear how many planes will be affected. Last year, the FAA estimated that an order would cover 220 engines on US airlines. That number could be higher now because more engines have hit the number of flights triggering an inspection.

Southwest announced its own programme for similar inspections of its 700-plane fleet over the next month. United Airlines executives said on Wednesday that it had begun to inspect some of their planes.

American Airlines has about 300 planes with that type of engine, and Delta Air Lines has about 185. It will not be clear until the FAA issues its rule how many will need inspections.

Tuesday’s accident broke a string of eight straight years without a fatal accident involving a US passenger airliner.

“Engine failures like this should not occur,” said National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Mr Sumwalt expressed concern about such a destructive engine failure but said he would not yet draw broad conclusions about the safety of CFM56 engines or the entire fleet of Boeing 737s, the most popular airliner ever built.

Federal investigators were still trying to determine how a window came out of the plane.

Press Association

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