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Investigation begins after Southwest Airlines accident

Southwest Airlines B737

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US has started an investigation after a passenger was killed and several others were injured as a result of a mid-air engine explosion on Southwest Airlines flight 1380.

According to local media, witnesses say a woman was partially ‘sucked’ out of a window of the B737-700 that was smashed by the explosion on 17 April. Though other passengers managed to pull her back in, she died as a result of her injuries.

The aircraft, which was en route from New York’s LaGuardia to Dallas, Texas with 144 passengers onboard, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Eight other passengers were injured, one of whom was taken to hospital in a critical condition, according to the Philadelphia Fire Department.

The deceased passenger has been named as Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo bank vice president from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hers is the first death on a US commercial flight since 2009.

Initial NTSB findings reveal the engine was missing a fan blade and there was evidence of ‘metal fatigue’ at the point where investigators think it broke off. Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the situation is “very unusual” and the investigation could take up to 15 months.

Southwest Airlines said it was accelerating an inspection programme for the type of engine involved in the accident (CFM56-7B) as a precaution.

It has now been revealed that a similar engine fault was recorded by Southwest Airlines in 2016 when a plane made an emergency landing in Florida after debris ripped a hole in the fuselage, causing cabin decompression. The US Federal Aviation Authority said it would be issuing a directive for carriers to inspect all CFM56-7B engines used on their aircraft.  

Passengers of the flight have praised pilot Tammie Jo Shults for guiding the plane to a safe landing after the explosion, while the airline has said the entire crew “acted professionally and swiftly” to look after customers.

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