‘Chaos all around’: 1 killed as Southwest jet makes emergency landing

PHILADELPHIA – Passengers aboard a Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight Tuesday heard an explosion before seeing oxygen masks drop from the ceiling and a woman sucked toward a broken window in the plane, a witness said.

One person died in the incident, the airline said.

“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.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a video statement that the family of the victim was the airline’s primary concern.

The father of a passenger, Todd Baur, told WCAU that shrapnel from the engine burst through the window of the plane, with the violent change in pressure partially sucking her out of the aircraft. Baur said other passengers helped pull her back in.

Terror in the cabin

“Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming,” passenger Marty Martinez said of the flight, which left New York and was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

“As the plane is going down, I am literally purchasing internet just so I can get some kind of communication to the outside world,” he said.

Passenger Matt Tranchin told CNN affiliate WPVI he was thinking, “That I’ll never live to see my son born. That I’ll never be able to say goodbye to my wife, say goodbye to parents. But I am. I am. I feel really very fortunate for that.”

Tranchin told WPVI the crew was frantically trying to plug a hole left when a window shattered.

“Flight attendants rushed up. There was momentary chaos. Everyone kind of descended on where this hole was,” he said.

The plane had suffered damage to one of its engines, and according to passenger Kristopher Johnson, who was sitting near the front of Flight 1380, debris from the engine flew into the window, breaking it and injuring a woman sitting nearby.

“Shrapnel hit the window causing a serious injury. No other details about that. Several medical personnel on the flight tended to the injured passenger,” Johnson said.

The crew reported damage to one of the aircraft’s engines as well as the fuselage and a window, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The injured woman’s arms and body were sucked toward the opening in the plane, Martinez recalled in a phone interview. Objects flew out the hole where the window had been, and “passengers right next to her were holding onto her. And meanwhile, there was blood all over this man’s hands. He was tending to her,” said Martinez, who was sitting a row or two away from the woman.

Other passengers began trying to plug the hole with jackets and other objects but to no avail. Those items, too, were sucked out of the plane, he said.

Martinez said he didn’t think he would survive. Nor did his colleague in an adjacent seat who was scrambling to write one last message to his wife and unborn son, he said.

“We could feel the air from the outside coming in, and then we had smoke kind of coming in the window. Meanwhile, you have passengers that were in that aisle, trying to attend to the woman that was bleeding from the window explosion,” he said. “That was just chaos all around.”

The plane descended precipitously, Johnson said, but the pilot regained control and informed passengers the flight was headed to Philadelphia.

“The crew did a great job,” he said.

The flight tracking website FlightRadar24 estimated the Boeing 737-700 descended from 31,684 feet to about 10,000 feet in a little over five minutes.

Passengers shared photos of the shredded casing of one of the aircraft’s engines.

A Facebook Live video shows a passenger, oxygen mask in one hand and phone in the other, with the caption, “Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!”

 

 

Seven others hurt

It was a rough landing, Martinez said, and things were still so chaotic that he wasn’t sure if the plane was going to crash. The jet could have been landing on a freeway for all he knew, he said.

“I didn’t know if we were going to be running into a building. I didn’t know what state the plane or even the pilot was in, if we were in condition to land,” he said. “It was just all incredibly traumatic, and finally when we … came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive.”

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said earlier that one of the 149 passengers and crew members on board was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Seven others were treated for minor injuries.

“We are in the process of gathering more information,” Southwest said.

Video from the scene showed the plane on the tarmac surrounded by emergency vehicles. The engine on the left wing was badly damaged.

Philadelphia International Airport said the plane landed safely. Passengers using the airport should expect delays, it said.

Feds begin investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Philadelphia to investigate the incident. Boeing said it is providing technical assistance in the investigation.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the plane carrying his team will return to Washington with the airliner’s flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. The agency expects to have preliminary readouts by Tuesday night.

Sumwalt said part of the inquiry will look at the CFM International 56 turboprop engine. Last year the FAA issued an airworthiness directive on the CFM56-7B version that would have required inspection of the fan blades.

“There are various iterations of that (engine) and so I can’t say exactly what that air worthiness directive might have applied to at this point, but that will be part of our investigation,” he said.

In August 2016, a Southwest Airlines 737 flying from New Orleans to Orlando was forced to make an emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida, when an engine failed.