A bank executive and mother-of-two from New Mexico has been identified as the woman who died after being partially sucked out of the blown-out window of a Southwest Airlines jet.
Jennifer Riordan was killed and seven people were injured after the twin-engine 737 apparently blew an engine and got hit by shrapnel that smashed the window.
Passengers dragged her back into the cabin as the sudden decompression pulled her part way through the opening, but she was gravely injured.
The plane was headed from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard when it detoured to Philadelphia.
Tracking data from FlightAware.com showed Flight 1380 was heading west over Pennsylvania about 32,200 feet (10 kilometres) and traveling 500 mph (800 km/h) when it abruptly turned towards Philadelphia.
News of Riordan’s death was first shared by the assistant principal of the Albuquerque Catholic school attended by her two children.
In an email to parents, assistant principal Amy McCarty wrote that “the family needs all the prayers we can offer”.
Riordan was a vice-president of community relations for Wells Fargo bank. She was the wife of Michael Riordan, who served until recently as the chief operating officer for the city of Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Broadcasters Association said on social media she was a graduate of the University of New Mexico and former board member.
The pilot took the plane into a rapid descent and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia as passengers using oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling said their prayers and braced for impact.
Passenger Marty Martinez said a window exploded mid-air and posted photo of a damaged window and emergency oxygen masks dangling down.
“I just remember holding my husband’s hand, and we just prayed and prayed and prayed,” passenger Amanda Bourman, of New York, said.
“And the thoughts that were going through my head of course were about my daughters, just wanting to see them again and give them a big hug so they wouldn’t grow up without parents.”
Passengers commended one of the pilots for her cool-headed handling of the emergency. She walked through the aisle and spoke to passengers to make sure they were OK after the plane touched down.
“She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her,” Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas, said. “I’m going to send her a Christmas card … with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome.”
Bourman said she was asleep near the back when she heard a loud noise and oxygen masks dropped.
“Everybody was crying and upset,” she said. “You had a few passengers that were very strong, and they kept yelling to people, you know, ‘It’s OK! We’re going to do this!’ “
In a recording of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic controllers, an unidentified crew member reported that there was a hole in the plane and “someone went out”.Loading
Tumlinson said a man in a cowboy hat rushed forward a few rows “to grab that lady to pull her back in.
She was out of the plane. He couldn’t do it by himself, so another gentleman came over and helped to get her back in the plane, and they got her”.
Another passenger, Eric Zilbert, an administrator with the California Education Department, said: “From her waist above, she was outside of the plane.”
Passengers struggled to plug the hole while giving the badly injured woman CPR.
Passengers did “some pretty amazing things under some pretty difficult circumstances,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.
As the plane came in for a landing, everyone started yelling to brace for impact, then clapped after the aircraft touched down safely, Bourman said.
“We were very lucky to have such a skilled pilot and crew to see us through it,” Zilbert said.
“The plane was steady as a rock after it happened. I didn’t have any fearing that it was out of control.”
Photos posted by passengers showed a heavily damaged window near the damaged engine.
Passengers reported seeing a woman being given medical attention on the plane.
She was removed from the plane by emergency medical workers and taken to hospital.
The last time a passenger died in an accident on a US airliner was in 2009 when 49 people on board and one on the ground were killed when a Continental Express plane crashed on a house near Buffalo, New York.
Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly said at a news conference in Dallas on Tuesday that there were no problems with the plane nor its engine when it was inspected on Sunday.
Kelly said the plane had gone through 40,000 take-offs and landings since it was delivered in July 2000. That included 10,000 since its last overhaul.
US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao praised the pilots, crew and passengers for helping to prevent a far worse tragedy.
She said her department was working with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause and ensure the safety of the travelling public.
CFM International, the company that made the engine, said it was helping investigators figure out what went wrong.
It said in a statement on Tuesday that it sent technical experts to help the National Transportation Safety Board officials.
CFM is a joint venture of General Electric and France’s Safran.
The company said the type of engine on the Southwest plane was installed on more than 6700 planes and had flown more than 350 million hours since its introduction in 1997.
The company said the engine had an outstanding safety and reliability record.
Before leaving New York Riordan posted on social media about her visit there.