Kirsters Baish| A Southwest Airlines jet’s left engine blew not long after the plane took off. Deadly pieces of shrapnel were flying into the plane’s fuselage and at least one window, causing the window to burst. One passenger aboard the plane was killed and seven others suffered injuries.
Passengers said that the Boeing 737-700’s left engine exploded roughly 20 minutes after the plane took off from LaGaurdia Airport in New York on Tuesday morning. The plane rapidly lost pressure when a window was smashed open. It was reported that the change in pressure sucked a female passenger part way out of the jet.
Todd Baur’s daughter-in-law was aboard the flight. Baur spoke with NBC10 and stated that his daughter-in-law told him that the woman was part way “drawn out” of the plane before she was “pulled back in by other passengers.”
Matt Tranchin was sitting three rows behind the woman who was sucked out. He explained, “The passenger who was sitting right next to the window that exploded was in critical condition covered in blood.”
The flight, which was headed to Dallas, Texas, immediately diverted from its path and made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport at roughly 11:20 a.m.
Robert Sumwalt with the National Transportation Safety Board said one passenger died as a result of the incident. It’s not clear if it was the same woman. Philadelphia fire officials said seven other passengers were treated on the tarmac for minor injuries.
Passengers shared photos of the plane’s left engine with major damage. The engine inlet was shredded with metal bent outward. The pane of a window just behind the left wing was missing.
“The plane dropped immediately,” Tranchin said. “Plane smelled like smoke. Ash was all around us.”
The plane was flying around 32,500 feet when the incident happened, according to an altitude-tracking tool on Flight Aware. The plane descended by more than 3,000 feet per minute until the pilots leveled out around 10,000 feet.
An aviation expert by the name of Arthur Wolk explained that this is actually a fairly modest descent rate and stated the the pilot had full control of the aircraft during landing.
Barr called the flight crew “incredible.” He explained that the pilot as well as the flight attendants remained calm and acted quickly in order to save lives.
One passenger posted a live video feed via Facebook while the incident was taking place. The footage is not great quality, but you can see a man trying to put on his yellow oxygen mask and updating loved ones on the situation.
The Facebook user, Marty Martinez, captioned the video, “Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!! We are bracing for landing!!”
Southwest Airlines released a short statement which explained that they were working on figuring out what went wrong.
“Safety is always our top priority at Southwest Airlines, and we are working diligently to support our customers and crews at this time,” the statement read.
The NTSB is expected to hold a briefing at its headquarters at Regan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, Tuesday afternoon. The agency is also sending a so-called go team to Philadelphia to investigate the incident.
A wave of malfunctions has plagued Southwest in recent years. In February, a cabin fire forced Southwest passengers to deplane before their flight took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, and San Jose. The fire — believed to be in the Boeing 737’s auxiliary power unit — caused the plane’s emergency chutes to deploy to evacuate 139 passengers and five crew members. A few minor injuries were reported, but no one was transported to hospitals.
Two years ago, in 2016, a Southwest Airlines flight was on its way to Orlando from New Orleans when it landed in Pensacola due to an engine blowing during the flight. No injuries were reported. It seems like Southwest has some explaining to do.