PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – An engine on a Southwest Airlines flight with 149 people aboard blew up in the air on Tuesday, killing one passenger and almost sucking another out of a window shattered by shrapnel, according to aviation and federal agencies and witness and media reports.
The plane, a Boeing 737, flown from New York to Dallas landed in Philadelphia in an emergency landing.
The death of 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan on Flight 1380 was the first in a US traffic accident since 2009, according to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at a Philadelphia Philadelphia press conference that a preliminary investigation has revealed that there is a missing engine fan blade that appears to have broken off and that where it would normally be fastened, metal fatigue prevails.
Sumwalt said part of the engine's cover, called a cowling, was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles from Philadelphia Airport.
. The engine on the left side of the plane dropped shrapnel, shattered a window, and caused a rapid pressure drop in the cabin of female passengers, according to testimonials and local news media.
"We missed a part of the plane, so we have to slow down," said the plane's captain, Tammy Jo Shults, the air traffic controllers who heard in the cockpit of NBC News.
Asked by a pilot if the jet is burning, Shults said it was not, but added, "They said there was a hole and someone had gone out."
"One woman was partially pulled back from the plane and other passengers," said Todd Bauer, whose daughter was on the flight, the NBC branch in Philadelphia.
At an earlier press conference in Washington, Sumwalt said one person had been killed, but did not describe the circumstances.
Riordan was a wells-fargo banker and a well-known volunteer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said a Wells Fargo official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as she was not sure if all of Riordan's family was over her Death had been informed.
Riordan was returning from a business trip to New York where she had sent a tweet on Monday showing her the view from her Midtown Manhattan hotel labeled "Great business stay." Her Facebook page shows that she was married to two children.
The plane destined for Dallas Love Field had only been inspected on Sunday, as Southwest Kelly confirmed, affirming that Tuesday's death was the first of its kind in the airline's 51-year history.
At 11:18 am the passenger Marty Martinez posted a live video of himself on the plane with a breathing mask on Facebook as the plane descended. More than an hour later, at 12:27, Martinez posted pictures of a blown-out window and the severely damaged engine.
"The entire Southwest Airlines family is devastated and expresses its sincere condolences to the customers, employees, family and relatives affected by this tragic event," Southwest said in a statement ,
Aboard the flight were 144 passengers and five crew members, Sumwalt said.
A passenger was taken to hospital in critical condition and seven people were treated at the accident site for minor injuries, said Kathy Matheson, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Fire Department. Matheson could not confirm how the passenger in critical condition suffered her injuries.
Sumwalt said the NTSB believes that parts of the engine failed, but it has not determined if it was an "unrestricted engine failure".
"There are guard rings around the engine so shrapnel will not come out, and while we think parts come from this engine, it may not have been in the part of the engine that technically qualifies this as an uncontrolled engine failure would, "he said.
"We do not believe there was a fire at all," he told the press conference before leaving for Philadelphia.
He said the NTSB sees about three or four unfinished engine failures a year, including non-US carriers.
"EVERYONE WAS CRAZY"
Flight 1380 was diverted to Philadelphia for an emergency landing after crewmembers reported damage to an engine, the fuselage, and at least one window, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
"Everyone went crazy and screamed and screamed," passenger Martinez told CNN.
Martinez said objects were flying out of the hole where the window had exploded and "the passengers next to her were holding tight (the woman was being pulled out) and meanwhile there was blood in the hands of this man everywhere around them. "
Television pictures showed that most of the outer casing was torn off the left engine of the Boeing Co 737-700 and a window near the engine on the left side of the aircraft was missing.
"Suddenly we heard that loud bang, rattling, it felt like one of the engines was running out, the oxygen masks were falling," passenger Kristopher Johnson told CNN. "It completely crushed the left engine … It was scary."
Southwest stocks tumbled more than 3 percent after the NTSB reported the death, before hitting the New York Stock Exchange 1.1 percent closed at 54.27 dollars.
The engines of the aircraft come from CFM International, a French company. Venture involvement of Safran and General Electric, which was not immediately available for comment.
THE MOST RELIABLE ENGINES
Boeing expressed his condolences in his statement to the family of the killed woman, saying she supported "at the request and under the guidance" of the NTSB.
The Boeing 737 is the world's best-selling aircraft. Their engines are the most widely used in the aircraft industry and are among the most reliable.
Design problems with the long-established CFM56 engine could affect fleets worldwide. With thousands of engines already in use worldwide, industry experts say that the focus of the investigation is more on one-off production or maintenance issues, though it's still too early to say what caused the explosion.
The accident comes as CFM struggles with production delays for a new engine model developed for the latest generation of Boeing and Airbus narrowbody jets.
Additional coverage by Tim Hepher of Paris, Andrew Hay of New Mexico, David Shepardson of Washington, Alana Wise and Peter Szekeley of New York; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Arrangement by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler