On Tuesday, April 17th, 2018, a Southwest Airlines flight had its own “real life Final Destination” moment, when the jet’s left engine exploded (apparently now discovered by NTSB that the plane had a missing fan blade and the engine had metal fatigue) shortly after takeoff. Pieces of shrapnel flew into the plane’s fuselage and at least one window. That window busted open, and sadly a passenger was sucked through immediately. The woman was identified as Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was pulled out all the way to her waist. But she was caught in the glass and was just swinging in the wind.
“The plane dropped immediately,” said passenger Matt Tranchin, who was sitting three rows behind the broken window. “Plane smelled like smoke. Ash was all around us.”
“You hear the pop and she was sucked out from the waist up,” one passenger told NBC Nightly News. “There was blood on the windows…her arms were actually out of the airplane and her head was out of the airplane.”
Fellow passengers worked to get her back inside the airliner as it depressurized and quickly descended thousands of feet per minute. They were successful in doing so. They performed CPR but to no avail. Riordan was the only fatality from the flight. Seven others were injured. Her death is the first onboard fatality in Southwest’s 51-year history.
The frightening ordeal played out onboard Southwest flight 1380 headed for Dallas from New York. The Boeing 737-700 was about 20 minutes into its journey from New York’s LaGuardia Airport when the engine failure occurred. The plane, carrying 144 passengers and five crew, diverted to Philadelphia International Airport where it made an emergency landing at 11:20 a.m. It took the calm and cool of the pilot and flight crew to save the lives of those remaining passengers on board.
“The crew and the pilot…that lady has the nerves of steel…at this point you don’t know where you’re going you don’t know where you’re going to end up, you just have to keep everybody calm,” he said.
The pilot of that Southwest flight was Tammie Jo Shults. What an incredible feat she pulled off. A true hero for sure. And Tammie is used to nerves of steel. She was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military. How about that for kismet? Who better than her to have saved those lives? Cool, calm and deliberate, Shults brought her twin-engine Boeing 737 in for an emergency landing saving the lives of those 100+ passengers.
Her coolness was particularly notable in the air traffic control recordings in which she is heard slowly and calmly reporting the in-air emergency, noting that they have “part of the aircraft missing.” Not only did she land the plane safely, she went down the aisles to check on EVERY passenger and their wellbeing. Simply amazing, inspirational and heartwarming. You will see more of Tammie Jo soon. She will be on all the news programs, talk shows and will probably be invited to the White House as well for a medal. God Bless this woman for what she did, and God bless Jennifer Riordan, and may she rest in peace.