PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Southwest Airlines crew spoke for the first time together about last month’s deadly engine explosion that forced an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
About 20 minutes into what was supposed to be a normal flight from New York’s La Guardia Airport to Dallas, there was a loud noise and a sudden drop.
“We were passing through 32,000 feet, it was a nice day, everything was very normal, there was a loud bang, the airplane yalled to the left, kinda like a car and started to descend on its own,” said First Officer Darren Ellisor on CBS This Morning.
As the cabin lost pressure, the crew says their training kicked in. Perhaps most notably Capt. Tammie Jo Shults, who was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy.
“She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her—I’m gonna send her a Christmas card, I’ll tell you that,” one passenger said after the emergency landing.
“I would just grab their hands even if I had to stretch over into a window seat. I would just look into some of their bloodshot eyes and say, ‘Look at me, we’re going to be okay, we’re going to make it, we’re going to Philadelphia,’” flight attendant Rachel Fernheimer recalled saying.
Despite their efforts, one passenger did not make it. Jennifer Riordan, a married mother of two from New Mexico, died of blunt force trauma after being partially sucked out of the plane.
“The survival of 148 never eclipses the loss of one and just from a viewpoint of looking in, she seemed like a woman with a profile of just being beautiful and in her priorities and the way she invested in her work—I think she left a beautiful legacy,” Shults said.
Flight 1380 was the first time that crew flew together. Before getting on the plane, they chatted briefly about their families and their faith.
“We came together beforehand and we talked about God. Not knowing what was going to happen minutes later, God had already prepared us,” said flight attendant Seanique Mallory.
A preliminary finding determined a fatigued engine blade snapped, causing the plane’s engine to tear apart.
Southwest Airlines says it has now finished inspecting all of its engine fan blades and have found no signs of fatigued blades.
The NTSB is still investigating the engine failure.