'I Thought We Were Goners'

Passenger describe terror on Flight 1380
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2018 6:56 AM CDT
Updated Apr 19, 2018 7:04 AM CDT
Southwest Passengers Describe 22 Minutes of Terror
In this image provided by the U.S Navy, Lt. Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first women to fly Navy tactical aircraft, poses in front of an F/A-18A with Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 34 in 1992.   (Thomas P. Milne/U.S. Navy via AP)

Passengers say they went through 22 minutes of terror after an engine blew on a Southwest Airlines 737-700 Tuesday, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Some say they prayed and tried to comfort those around them as the oxygen masks fell amid a steep descent. Other say they tried to frantically to buy Internet time to send a last message to loved ones. One passenger died after being partially sucked out of a window knocked out by shrapnel. At least seven others were injured. "I grabbed my wife’s hand and I started praying: 'Dear Jesus, send some angels. Just save us from this,'" pastor Timothy Bourman tells the New York Times. "I thought we were goners." In other developments:

  • Engine inspections. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the inspection of engine fan blades on Boeing 737s, the AP reports. Investigators say a blade that snapped off due to metal fatigue appears to have been the cause of Tuesday's incident—and of another engine failure on a Southwest 737 in 2016. Manufacturer CFM International recommended in June last year that airlines inspect the fan blades on 737s, but the FAA never issued a final decision on making the inspections mandatory.

  • Southwest's fleet. Southwest hasn't said yet whether the recommended ultrasonic inspection had been carried out on the CFM-56 engine that blew up Tuesday or on the hundreds of other 737s in its fleet, ABC7 reports.
  • "Our hearts are heavy." The two pilots issued a statement through the airline late Wednesday, CBS reports. "We all feel we were simply doing our jobs. Our hearts are heavy," said Captain Tammie Jo Shults and First Officer Darren Ellisor the statement. "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." Shults has been praised as a hero with "nerves of steel."
  • FAA criticized. Robert Clifford, a lawyer suing American Airlines over another engine failure, is among those criticizing the FAA for not ordering mandatory inspections sooner, even if it would have seriously disrupted aviation. "There is something going on with these engines and the statistical likelihood of additional failures exists," he tells the AP.

  • The investigation. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt says he realizes people want answers, but the "methodical investigation" will take time to determine exactly what went wrong, CNN reports. Investigators plan to locate all the debris from the engine and completely reconstruct it. Sumwalt says the actions of the pilots will also be reviewed. He says they had the skill to right the aircraft within seconds after it went into a 41.3 degree angle. "My hat is off to them, they behaved in a manner their training called for," he says.
  • The fatality. More details have emerged on the death of passenger Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old bank executive from New Mexico, news.com.au reports. Riordan, who was wearing her seat belt when she was sucked part way out of a broken window, died from blunt impact trauma to the head, neck, and torso, the coroner says. Firefighter Andrew Needum and ranch hand Tim McGinty pulled her back inside. Nurse Peggy Phillips says she performed CPR on Riordan, who was pronounced dead at a Philadelphia hospital.
  • The pilot. The Washington Post has more on Shults, who broke barriers to become one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy. "She said she wasn’t going to let anyone tell her she couldn’t," says Cindy Foster, who went to college with her.
(Read more Southwest Airlines stories.)

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