It’s every person’s worst nightmare when traveling via plane, and yet that is precisely what happened during Southwest flight 1380 when a critical engine failure caused a window to burst open, losing cabin pressure and ultimately, costing a woman her life.
Jennifer Riordan, 43, was a Wells Fargo executive and also a mother of two. According to CNN, when the engine went into critical failure, it sent debris up into the air, that smashed the window Jennifer was sitting next to, causing her head and arms to get sucked out of the plane after the immediate loss of cabin pressure. A spokesman of the Philadelphia department of public health told reporters that Riordan died due to “blunt impact trauma of the head, neck, and torso.” Riordan succumbed to her injuries in the hospital.
Oxygen masks were deployed when cabin pressure was lost, and the plane tilted to a dramatic 40 degrees according to CNN. Normally, a plane never passes more than 20 degrees on its side. Passengers managed to get Riordan back inside the cabin, and a nurse began performing CPR on her well after the plane landed and paramedics arrived onboard. Another passenger, Matt Tranchin, who is the head of a political action committee in Dallas took to creating a Facebook Live video of the event, documenting the entire experience. Even moments before they thought the plane would crash, Tranchin was able to communicate with his expecting wife via text message.
Tranchin spoke with Action News reporters about the harrowing experience, saying “Right around the time there was a huge explosion and glass shattering three rows ahead of me, that was about the moment that I realized this was not going to be a normal flight,” Tranchin added that, “Flight attendants rushed up. There was momentary chaos. Everyone kind of descended on where this hole was. As passengers we weren’t sure if they were trying to cover up the hole, but the plane smelled like smoke. There was ash coming through the ventilation system. We started dropping.”
Although Riordan passed away, and over seven others were injured during the incident, the plane was landed safely due to the tremendously level-headed and talented pilots who kept their cool in the face of danger. Captain Tammie Jo Shults and the plane’s first officer Darren Ellisor landed the plane safely. They declined to speak with reporters and were hesitant to accept praise, saying that they were only doing their jobs.
Now many are wondering why such an incident had to happen in the first place. The flight itself was scheduled to take off from New York en route to Dallas, and just twenty minutes into the flight the engine failed. There were 144 passengers and 5 crew members on board when this occurred. The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board spoke with CNN in the aftermath of this event, stating “In aviation, there should be inspection techniques and procedures in place to detect something like that. What we want to find out is why was this not detected ahead of time.”
Captain Shults and First Officer Ellisor made a brief statement on Southwest airlines social media pages saying “We all feel we were simply doing our jobs,” and “Our hearts are heavy. On behalf of the entire crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family’s profound loss.” We may yet learn why exactly this engine has failed in the days to come.
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