In April of 2018, a Southwest Airline flight carrying 144 passengers and five crew members was continuing en route as usual when there was a loud bang and smoke suddenly began filling the cabin. Flight attendants ran through the aisles ensuring passengers were able to get to their oxygen masks.
It wasn’t until flight attendant Rachel Fernheimer reached row 14 that she realized that a woman was hanging out of the window. Although the passenger’s waist was restrained by her safety belt, her head, torso, and arm were being sucked out of the plane. “We got (unintelligible words) a window open and somebody – is out the window,” Mallory said. According to a transcript, she adds a little later, “Yeah everyone still in their seats, we have people have been helpin’ her get in I don’t know what her condition is, but the window is completely out.”
Fernheimer grabbed onto the woman but required the assistance of several male passengers to drag the woman back into the plane. One man had to stick his arm out of the window and grab the woman’s shoulders to free her. Other passengers trained in CPR tried to administer help as best they could until the plane landed and EMT’s took over. Despite their efforts, the passenger, a 43-year-old mother named Jennifer Riordan, died as a result of her injuries.
The FAA has ordered new inspection requirements for engines similar to the one that failed earlier this week on a Southwest Airlines flight, resulting in a passenger's death https://t.co/DBtJbUCMNz pic.twitter.com/hfDOShh9U8— CNN (@CNN) April 21, 2018
Now harrowing new details are emerging regarding the malfunction that cost Riordan her life. An examination of the plane found that the accident was caused by a blade from an engine fan that broke off mid-flight. The blade flew into the window closest to Riordan and shattered it, causing her to be sucked from the plane. According to ABC, this is the first death on a U.S. airline flight since 2009.
On Wednesday, a hearing took place in Washington to discuss the design of the fan blades on the engine, a product of CFM International. It was determined that the blade that broke had been well used, having been part of 32,000 flights and hadn’t been inspected since 2012. It was likely a crack caused by metal fatigue that led it to break. Although there is no set time in which fan blades are to be replaced, CFM will likely begin switching them out more regularly. The company also intends to utilize more detailed inspections to ensure a fatal accident like this never occurs again.
Besides Riordan, several other passengers received minor injuries trying to save her life but were not critically injured as a result of the malfunction.