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1 Person Dies After Southwest Jet With Blown Engine Makes Emergency Landing

7 hours ago
Originally published on April 17, 2018 8:24 pm

Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET

One person died after a Southwest plane experienced serious engine trouble Tuesday and was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Seven other people onboard Flight 1380 were injured. It is the first U.S. airline fatality since 2009.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt says a fan blade separated from the engine.

"We do have information that there was one fatality," Sumwalt told reporters during a news conference. Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam Thiel had previously told reporters that one person was transported to a hospital in critical condition and that the seven others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

In a news conference in Dallas, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the twin-engine 737 had been inspected as recently as Sunday. He said the deceased passenger is Southwest's first in-flight fatality.

According to the Associated Press and other news reports, passengers said that shrapnel from the failed engine smashed a window and the resulting cabin decompression pulled a female passenger partially out of the plane.

The Associated Press reported:

"Another passenger, Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas, 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.'"

Although Southwest has confirmed the fatality, but it was not immediately clear how the passenger died. The woman received C.P.R. from flight attendants and other passengers, as well as electric current from a defibrillator, according to the New York Times.

"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 airline said in a statement.

The Boeing 737-700 had 144 passengers and five crew members onboard as it headed from New York to Dallas, according to the airline. (Initial reports were 143 passengers.)

The plane made the emergency landing "after the crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, as well as the fuselage and at least one window," according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thiel told reporters that firefighters "found a fuel leak and a small fire on one of the engines."

Crew members alerted air traffic controllers that there were injured passengers. "Could you have medical meet us on the runway as well, we've got injured passengers," said a crew member in audio posted on LiveATC.net.

"Injured passengers, OK, and is your airplane physically on fire?" asks the air controller. "No, it's not on fire, but part of it's missing," she responds.

"They said there's a hole and someone went out," she added.

Photos taken by passengers on Flight 1380 and others showed that one of the plane's windows was blown out and parts of an engine were ripped off.

"Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down!" passenger Marty Martinez said in a livestream video as he breathed through an oxygen mask. He said on Facebook that an explosion outside the window injured a woman sitting next to it.

Passenger Kristopher Johnson told CNN, "All of a sudden we just heard this loud bang rattling and then felt like one of the engines went out, the oxygen masks dropped.

"We just got the mask on, and as soon as we landed we were thankful. The pilots did a great job, the crew did a great job, got us down in Philly."

Sumwalt, the NTSB chairman, said that the federal agency is deploying a "go team" to conduct an "extensive investigation." He says that the flight recorders have been secured from the plane, and the investigators expect to receive a preliminary readout this evening. The engine will be shipped off-site for inspection, he said.

The flight tracker FlightAware shows that the plane took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport at 10:27 a.m. ET, then suddenly turned sharply toward Philadelphia, where it landed at 11:23 a.m.

Philadelphia International Airport said the plane landed safely and that passengers were taken to the terminal. It added that people on other flights to and from the airport should expect delays.

CNN video showed the plane on the tarmac as rescue workers operated around it. Firefighting foam was visible on one side of the plane.

Although the airline hasn't officially confirmed what led to the emergency landing, aviation analyst Miles O'Brien told CNN that the images of the plane show signs of "uncontained engine failure."

He said this could mean that a piece of the engine came off and escaped from the cowling. "And this could be a very hazardous situation because essentially those are ... pieces of shrapnel that come off at very high rates of speed and can easily pierce the skin of the aircraft."

Sumwalt stated that "uncontained engine failure" is a technical term that NTSB is not yet certain is accurate, because it refers to shrapnel from a specific part of the engine.

"Even though we believe there were parts coming out of this engine, it may not have been in that section of the engine that technically would qualify this as an uncontained engine failure," he said, adding that it is being characterized as simply an "engine failure" for now.

Southwest is known for its strong safety record. In fact, Tuesday's fatality appears to be the first time a person has died on one of the airline's planes as a result of an accident. According to The Points Guy, an industry analyst, the airline has been involved in one previous incident that resulted in a death on the ground, when a Southwest plane struck three cars in Chicago as it slid off a runway.

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