NTSB: 1 person dead after Southwest plane makes emergency landing

National/World

A federal investigator says one person has been killed after a plane with engine failure made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. The Southwest Airlines jet landed Tuesday with part of the covering from its left engine ripped off and a window damaged.

Passengers walked off the 737 plane onto the tarmac at the airport. Seven other people aboard the Boeing 737 that was headed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas’ Love Field were treated for minor injuries, according to Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. He said there was a fuel leak in one of the engines when firefighters arrived and a small fire was quickly brought under control.

Southwest Airlines said there were 143 passengers and five crewmembers on board.

Passenger Marty Martinez did a brief Facebook Live posting while wearing an oxygen mask. He posted, “Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!”

After the plane landed, he posted photos of a damaged window near the engine.

News helicopter footage showed damage to the left engine of the plane and the tarmac covered with firefighter foam, although there were no signs of flames or smoke.

“I just remember holding my husband’s hand and we just prayed and prayed and prayed,” said passenger Amanda Bourman, of New York. “And the thoughts that were going through my head of course were about my daughters, just wanting to see them again and give them a big hug so they wouldn’t grow up without parents.”

Bourman said that everyone started yelling to brace for impact when the plane started to land. Everyone clapped and praised the pilot after he set the aircraft down.

Bourman said she saw emergency medical workers using a defibrillator to help a woman who was taken off the plane. Thiel declined to release any other details about the woman’s condition.

Bourman said that she saw a man in a cowboy hat rush to cover the broken window and that the man had a bandage around his arm after the plane landed.

Passengers did “some pretty amazing things under some pretty difficult circumstances,” Thiel said.

Tracking data from FlightAware.com shows Flight 1380 was heading west over New York’s southern tier when it abruptly turned toward Philadelphia.

Southwest has about 700 planes, all of them 737s, including more than 500 737-700s like the one involved in Tuesday’s emergency landing. It is the world’s largest operator of the 737. The Boeing 737 is the best-selling jetliner in the world and has a good safety record.

John Goglia, a former NTSB member, said investigators will take the Southwest engine apart to understand what happened and will look at maintenance records for the engine.

“There’s a ring around the engine that’s meant to contain the engine pieces when this happens,” Goglia said. “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?”

Goglia said the Boeing 737 is a safe plane but engine failures occur from time to time.

“We’re pushing the engines to produce as much power as possible,” he said. “We’re right on the edge. Sometimes they fail, and that’s why the containment ring is there.”

The engine failure was reminiscent of a similar event on a Southwest Boeing 737-700 jet in August 2016 as it flew from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida. Shrapnel from the engine left a 5-by-16-inch hole just above the wing. Passenger oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Pilots landed the plane safely in Pensacola, Florida.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said one of the engine’s fan blades broke off from the hub during the flight. The broken edge of the blade showed crack lines consistent with metal fatigue.

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