One dead after airplane engine explodes mid-air

Image: Twitter/ @HeavySan

An engine on a Southwest Airlines flight with 149 people aboard exploded in mid-air on Tuesday, killing one passenger and nearly sucking another out of a window that was shattered by shrapnel, according to airline and federal authorities and witness and media accounts.

Flight 1380 was diverted to Philadelphia for an emergency landing after crew members reported damage to an engine, the fuselage and at least one window, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

“Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming,” a passenger Marty Martinez, who posted on Facebook a live video of himself on the plane, wearing a breathing mask, as the plane descended, said.

Martinez said objects flew out of the hole where the window had exploded, and “passengers right next to her were holding onto [the woman being pulled out]. And, meanwhile, there was blood all over this man’s hands. He was tending to her.”

The engine on the plane’s left side threw off shrapnel when it blew apart, shattering a window and causing rapid cabin depressurization that nearly pulled out a female passenger, according to witness accounts and local news media reports.

Television images showed that most of the outer casing around the left engine of the Boeing Co 737-700 ripped away and a window near the engine on the plane’s left side was missing.

The death of 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan was the first in a US commercial aviation accident since 2009, according to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) statistics.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, at a news conference at the Philadelphia airport, said a preliminary investigation showed that an engine fan blade was missing, having apparently broken off, and that there was metal fatigue where it normally would be attached.

Sumwalt said part of the engine’s covering, called a cowlling, was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles from the Philadelphia airport.

- Reuters