Passenger and little girl ‘tried to pull tragic mum back in from plane window’

A passenger has revealed harrowing further details of the bizarre incident that killed a mum-of-two following a mid-air plane explosion.

Jennifer Riordan, 43, died when the left engine of Southwest flight 1380 exploded, sending shrapnel into her window.

It smashed the glass and Mrs Riordan, sat in seat 14C, was half sucked out of the plane window in the sudden decompression.

Hollie Mackey was in seat 14A and told how a little girl, who has not been identified, was sat between them.

"When I saw Jennifer… I had leaned over and grabbed on to her belt loops and her waist and wrapped my arm around her waist and tried to pull," she told KTVQ news channel.

"And the little girl next to me also tried to pull with me, and we tried to pull her back in, and we couldn’t.

"We were not strong enough.

"All we could do was stay calm, because if we didn’t then there would be even more panic in the plane."

Mrs Mackey said she could do was "wait" with the little girl in the hope help would arrive.

Fortunately it did, in the form of firefighter Andrew Needum and another passenger Tim McGinty who was sat across the aisle.

The two men were able to pull Mrs Riordan back in though sadly her injuries proved fatal.

Mr Needum’s family said his heroics were no surprise.

"When he saw the commotion going on six rows behind us, he was gone. He didn’t hesitate," said his father, who was also onboard the flight.

Wife Stephanie added: "I just knew that at that moment, someone else needed him much more than we did.

"And that’s what his calling is – to help."

Speaking of he ordeal, Mr Needum added: "My heart is broken for them.

"I just pray that they find comfort, that they find healing whatever that may be, however they seek it."

Fellow passenger Tim McGinty told NBC that he and the firefighter were able to pull Mrs Riorda, a banking executive, back into the plane.

Speaking to reporters, with a bandaged arm that he scraped as he tried to save the mum from New Mexico, he said: "When we saw the window was gone somebody saw the lady out of the window so just tried to get her back in and wasn’t strong enough.

"A fireman, from Celina, Texas, jumped in there and helped and between the two of us we were able to get her back in."

He added: "They were having to drop the plane 20,00ft in five minutes and the pilots, I don’t know how they did it."

He told Fox4 : “The engine went out and had a lady go out the window, and we couldn’t pull her in,” McGinty recalled.

“A guy helped. We got her pulled in. They tried to resuscitate her. Anyway, the crew and the pilot, they got it landed somehow."

A preliminary investigation into the tragedy found an engine fan blade had apparently broken off.

The plane, a Boeing 737-700 which was bound to Dallas from New York, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Mrs Riordan was on her way home to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lived with her husband Michael and their two young children.

Annunciation Catholic School, where the children attend, confirmed her sad death in an email to parents telling them the family "needs all the prayers we can offer".

Less than 24 hours ago, Mrs Riordan had tweeted an excited picture from her New York hotel room.

"Great business stay (@ DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Metropolitan – New York City," she wrote.

Her family later released a statement which read: "Jennifer Riordan has passed away as a result of previously reported events on Southwest Airlines flight No. 1380.

"Jennifer’s vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country.

"Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured.

"But foremost, she is the bedrock of our family.

"She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other.

"Her beauty and love is evident through her children.

"We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support from family, friends and our community."

"We do ask that those who seek to express their condolences and prayers as well as media outlets respect our privacy at this time.

"Our family and friends need this time to both grieve and celebrate Jennifer’s impact on us all.

"In her memory — please remember to always be kind, loving, caring and sharing."

Seven other people suffered minor injuries in the incident.

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being hailed a hero for safely landing the plane with 143 passengers and five crew on board at Philadelphia.

Audio later emerged of an extraordinary exchange between Ms Shults and Air Traffic Control in which she confirmed there were "injured passengers".

In response, air traffic control asked: "Injured passengers okay… and is your plane physically on fire?

Pilot: "Not fire, not fire but part of its missing. They said there’s a hole and uh… someone went out.”

Air traffic control: "Um, I’m sorry, you said there was a hole and somebody went out? Southwest 1380, it doesn’t matter we will work it out there."

The death is the first on a US airline since 2009.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said seven others aboard the aircraft were treated for minor injuries.

Television images showed most of the outer casing around the left engine of the Boeing Co 737-700 had ripped away and a window near the engine on the plane’s left side was missing.

In a phone interview with CNN, passenger Marty Martinez said a window exploded mid-flight, causing a woman serious injuries.

Mr Martinez said: "The injured woman’s arms and body were sucked toward the opening in the plane.

"Objects flew out the hole where the window had been, and passengers right next to her were holding onto her.

"And meanwhile, there was blood all over this man’s hands. He was tending to her.

"We could feel the air from the outside coming in, and then we had smoke kind of coming in the window.

"Meanwhile, you have passengers that were in that aisle, trying to attend to the woman that was bleeding from the window explosion.

"That was just chaos all around."

Mr Martinez streamed a brief Facebook Live video with the caption "Something is wrong with our plane!

"It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!"

He said he was sitting two rows behind the window that was broken mid-flight.

"Her [the woman’s] arms and her body were sucked, like sucked in that direction, from my vantage point," he said.

"So you see people, from the back of the seat, holding onto her, you know, trying to keep her contained."

He said other passengers were trying to patch the hole in the plane.

"People in the other rows are – just trying to plug the hole, which sounds ridiculous, because you know people are using jackets and things, and it’s just being sucked right out," he told CNN.

Southwest Airlines said: "We are deeply saddened to confirm that there is one fatality resulting from this accident.

"The entire Southwest Airlines Family is devastated and extends its deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the customers, employees, family members and loved ones affected by this tragic event.

"We have activated our emergency response team and are deploying every resource to support those affected by this tragedy."

America’s National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation.

Its chairman Robert Sumwalt said a preliminary investigation found an engine fan blade missing, having apparently broken off, and that there was metal fatigue at the point where it normally attached.

He said part of the engine’s covering, called a cowlling, was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles from the Philadelphia airport.

The aircraft’s maker, Boeing, said on Twitter it was aware of the incident and was "gathering more information".

The plane’s engines are made by CFM International, a French-US venture co-owned by Safran and General Electric, which was not immediately available for comment.

The fatality marks the first fatal accident involving a commercial US passenger airline flight in nine years.

The last deadly accident on a US passenger plane was in February 2009, when Colgan Air 3407 crashed in wintery conditions while on approach in Buffalo, killing 49 aboard and one person on the ground.

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