Philadelphia, PA – A woman was killed Tuesday when she was partially sucked out of the window of a Southwest Airlines jet at 32,000 feet and was pulled back into the plane by passengers and crew.
Jennifer Riordan, a New Mexico mother of two and a banking executive, died of head injuries when she was hit by pieces of shrapnel from the engine pierced the jet, according to The Sun. Riordan was taken to the hospital in critical condition and later died.
Pilot Tammie Jo Shults was able to safely land the plane with 143 passengers and five crew in Philadelphia, The Sun reported.
WOFL-TV reported that Shults was among the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military and flew for the Navy, according to friends and the alumni group at Shults' alma mater, MidAmerica Nazarene.
Marty Martinez was a passenger on the plane who posted a Facebook Live during the emergency landing.
“Flight attendants ran over calling for passengers to help cover the hole as they broke down and began uncontrollably crying and looking horrified as they looked outside. Plane dropped dramatically and it smelled like fire with ash coming down on everyone thru the vents. Absolutely terrifying, but we are okay,” Martinez wrote, according to KYW-TV.
“First there was an explosion and almost immediately, the oxygen masks came down and, probably within a matter of 10 seconds, the engine then hit a window and busted it wide open,” said Martinez.
Martinez said there was blood everywhere from the injured woman.
Riordan was a vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo bank, KYW reported. She was married to Michael Riordan, who was the chief operating officer for the city of Albuquerque until recently, KYW reported.
The jet was flying from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Dallas Love Field. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it appeared that in the middle of the flight the left engine failed. Pieces of shrapnel from the engine smashed through the fuselage. The jet diverted its course to Philadelphia at about 11:15 a.m.
The NTSB said a preliminary examination of the damaged jet engine showed signs of “metal fatigue.”
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said one of the jet’s engine fan blades was separated and missing. Sumwalt said part of the engine covering was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, which is about 70 miles west of Philadelphia.
There were seven other people who were treated for minor injuries.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the crew and passengers responded well in an emergency situation.
“It is our understanding that passengers onboard the aircraft, in addition to the flight crew and the cabin crew, did some pretty amazing things under very difficult circumstances,” said Thiel, according to KYW.