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A Woman Was Killed After An Engine On A Southwest Flight Exploded In Midair

The pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, is being praised as a hero after carrying out an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Last updated on April 18, 2018, at 10:17 p.m. ET

Posted on April 17, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. ET

A woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, died Tuesday after being partially sucked out of a plane window when an engine exploded on a Southwest Airlines flight, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.


Jennifer Riordan, vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo, was one of 149 people on board Southwest Flight 1380 when the jet's left engine exploded shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

She died as the plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia, her family confirmed in a statement Tuesday night.

"Jennifer's vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country," the family said. "Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured."

Riordan died of blunt force trauma to her head, neck, and torso, according to James Garrow, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

The Boeing 737-700 carrying 144 passengers was just 20 minutes into its flight to Dallas when the left engine exploded. Riordan was reportedly pulled out of the aircraft up to her waist after debris smashed her window on row 14.

What a flight! Made it!! Still here!! #southwest #flight1380

Wells Fargo said she was "a well-known leader who was loved and respected."

"We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends," it said in a statement.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for her family.

Officials said Tuesday that one person had been transported to the hospital, but did not specify if that person was Riordan. Fire officials said seven people were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

"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 pilot who successfully landed the plane at Philadelphia International Airport as it plummeted from 32,000 feet has been named as Tammie Jo Shults, a former Navy pilot and one of the first women to fly an F/A-18 fighter jet.

Passengers praise flight crew of #Southwest1380 and identify pilot on social media as Tammie Jo Shults, who landed plane after engine blew. She’s a native from New Mexico, and was one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots @6abc 📸: Kristopher Johnson

She graduated from MidAmerica Nazarene University at Olathe, Kansas, in 1983, according to the school's alumni page, before becoming one of the Navy's first woman fighter pilots.

Shults is being hailed as a hero for her calm handling of the situation after audio emerged of her conversation with air traffic control.

View this video on YouTube

"We have a part of the aircraft missing. So we're doing to need to slow down a bit," Shults told air traffic control, who advised her to start looking for the airport to her right, according to the recording.

"OK. Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well? We've got injured passengers," Shults said.

"Injured passengers, OK. And are you... Is your airplane physically on fire?" air traffic control asked.

"No, it's not on fire but part of it's missing," she replied. "They said there is a hole and someone went out."

The plane landed at a speed of 190 miles per hour, higher than the customary 155, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Shults and First Officer Darren Ellisor brushed off the praise in a statement on Wednesday, saying they "were simply doing our jobs" and that their "hearts are heavy" over the Riordan family's "profound loss."

Please see below a statement from the Captain and First Officer of Flight 1380.

Passengers took to social media to express their gratitude to Shults (second left).

MidAmerica Nazarene University alumni Facebook page

"A huge thank you to the Southwest Crew & Pilot Tammie Jo Shults for their knowledge and bravery under these circumstances. God bless each one of them," wrote Diana McBride Self on Facebook.

Instagram user Amanda Bourman wrote: "A window blew out, a man saved us all as he jumped to cover the window. Unfortunately we lost a passenger to a heart attack. The pilot, Tammy Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly."

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) posted photos of the exploded engine on Tuesday morning.

NTSB investigators on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane.

A woman who performed CPR on another passenger told Good Morning America that the plane started shaking like she'd never experienced before.

Woman who performed CPR on another passenger on board Southwest flight describes midair horror as they made an emergency landing Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia:

She described people gathering around an "incident" behind her seat, though didn't specify the details.

"The minute they said 'we need someone who knows CPR' I got up and went back... and we began CPR immediately," she said.

"I don't consider myself a hero by any stretch, but there were heroes on that plane, and I was just doing my job."

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that it was "a sad day" and extended his "deepest sympathies for the family and the loved ones of our deceased customer."

Southwest Airlines confirms accident; our Hearts are with those affected:

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said a preliminary examination of the aircraft revealed that one of the engine's 24 fan blades had broken in two places and was missing.

"There’s evidence of metal fatigue where the blade separated," Sumwalt told reporters Tuesday night.

He added that a piece of the engine's cowling, or the covering that surrounds the engine, was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles northwest of the Philadelphia airport. Air Traffic Control's radar showed debris falling from the plane in the 22 minutes between the initial incident and the landing.

Investigators will be looking at the plane's maintenance records to see when the engine was last inspected, as well as an airworthiness directive related to the aircraft's model of engine.

"There are various iterations of that [engine] and so I can't say exactly what that airworthiness directive might have applied to at this point, but that will be part of our investigation," Sumwalt said.

He added that investigators will also be looking for any possible relationship between Tuesday's incident and what happened over the Gulf of Mexico on a Southwest flight in 2016, when an engine fell apart mid-air.

“We want to look at this particular event and see what the factors are related to — maybe they're related to the previous event or maybe not,” he said.

The NTSB's investigation is ongoing, Sumwalt said at a Wednesday press conference.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the airplane landed "after the crew reported damage to one of the aircraft’s engines, as well as the fuselage and at least one window."

The FAA announced on Twitter Wednesday that it would issue an Airworthiness Directive requiring ultrasonic inspections of fan blades in "certain CFM56-7B engines," the type used by the malfunctioning Southwest flight, after a certain number of takeoffs and landings.

"Any blades that fail the inspection will have to be replaced," the statement read.

@SouthwestAir I want to thank the crew of SWA 1380 for a great job getting us to the ground safely after losing in engine #angelsinthesky

A passenger, Marty Martinez, posted videos of the flight's landing, writing on Facebook, "Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!"

Facebook: video.php

He also shared shaky footage of the aircraft's cabin.

Facebook: video.php

Martinez told CBS News that on the aircraft, there was "blood everywhere."

Marty Martinez

"We were probably going down for 10 to 15 minutes," he said. "And of course everyone is freaking out, everyone is crying. It was the scariest experience."

"Engine exploded in the air and blew open window 3 seats away from me," Martinez wrote on Facebook, sharing more photos of the busted engine and a broken window.

Facebook: marty.martinez.96

Todd Baur, the father-in-law of one of the passengers, told NBC10 that his relative had told him that a piece of the engine broke a window.

One passenger, a woman, was partially "drawn out towards the outside of the plane" but "was pulled back in by other passengers," he said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.