Passenger killed after airliner's window smashed by exploding engine

The plane diverted to Philadelphia after the engine exploded.

The pilots of the twin-engine Boeing 737 bound from NY to Dallas with 149 people aboard made abrupt turn toward Philadelphia and began a rapid descent after the engine blew.

The low pressure created a sucking effect, and a passenger, identified in media reports as Jennifer Riordan, 43, of New Mexico, was reportedly pulled partially through the window. "They said there's a hole and that someone went out".

"It all happened so quick, it went bang and they had disappeared".

French accident investigators said they would send a team on Wednesday to assist the investigation led by the Washington-based National Transportation Safety Board because the engine was developed by a French-U.S. joint venture, CFM International.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said firefighters doused the plane with fire-retardant foam to prevent fuel from igniting as passengers escaped.

Gov. Susana Martinez called Riordan "an incredible woman who put her family and community first" and said her loss would be felt across the state.

Secretary Elaine Chao said her department is working with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause and ensure the safety of the traveling public. "Most people don't get to walk away from an experience like this, but she was able to safely get us home".

Passenger Marty Martinez, who posted a video showing passengers with oxygen masks as the plane descended, later told CBS News that "there was blood everywhere". He posted, "Something is wrong with our plane! We were going to crash land and I was praying that it just wouldn't hurt". Anyway, the crew and the pilot, they got it landed somehow.

Passengers did "some pretty incredible things under some pretty hard circumstances", Thiel said.

NY based publication Irish Central identified Riordan locally as being Irish-American. It is the world's largest operator of the 737.

The model is the smallest jetliner now manufactured by Boeing and is the heart of the airline's all-737 fleet.

Southwest says the failed CFM 56 engine is about 20 years old but was serviced just three days ago.

It was not an explosion, he said, likening it more to a car's combustion engine throwing a rod, which bangs around the engine. "In this case it didn't. That's going to be a big focal point for the NTSB - why didn't [the ring] do its job?" "We were still doing CPR when the plane landed", Peggy Williams said.

"The engine has accumulated more than 350 million flight hours as one of the most reliable and popular jet engines in airline history", the company says in its statement.

The flight was en route from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas with 149 passengers on board when one engine apparently exploded mid-air. Shrapnel from the engine left a 5-by-16-inch hole just above the wing.

Shults took the plane into a rapid descent as passengers employed oxygen masks and braced for impact. After aviation officer candidate school in Pensacola, Fla., she was assigned to a training squadron at Naval Air Station Chase Field in Beeville, Tex., as an instructor pilot teaching student aviators how to fly the Navy T-2 trainer.

"This fan blade was broken right at the hub, and our preliminary examination of this was there is evidence of metal fatigue where the blade separated", said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.

"We are very concerned", the NTSB's Sumwalt said, referring to the general problem of detecting slow-developing metal fatigue.

Boeing said it is providing technical help to the investigation and Southwest said it is cooperating. App users can watch here.

  • Arturo Norris