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April 18, 2018

1 killed, at least 7 injured after midair explosion on Southwest Airlines jet

Motley Rice aviation attorney and CNN Transportation analyst Mary Schiavo discussing what possibly went wrong on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on CNN April 17, 2018.

One person was killed and at least seven others were treated for minor injuries April 17, 2018, after a Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport due to an apparent engine failure.

According to news reports, 143 passengers and five crew members were on board the Boeing 737-700 jet, which was en route to Dallas from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. About 30 minutes into the flight, a midair explosion damaged the plane’s left engine, the fuselage and created a gaping hole where a window had been, the Federal Aviation Administration stated. Those on board attempted to stuff the hole with personal objects but those objects were pulled out of the plane.  A passenger, Jennifer Riordan of New Mexico, was critically injured and later died of her injuries in hospital. Her arms and upper body were pulled toward the opening as other passengers attempted to render aid.

The explosion came nearly two years after another Southwest Boeing 737-700 suffered engine failure while flying to Orlando, Fla., from New Orleans in August 2016. In that incident, shrapnel from the engine caused a 5-by-16-inch hole above one of the plane’s wings, forcing an emergency landing in Pensacola, Fla. Investigators determined one of the engine’s fan blades had broken off from the hub mid-flight, causing damage, though no injuries were reported.

“The [engine failures] are eerily similar,” said Motley Rice aviation attorney, former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General, and CNN Aviation Analyst Mary Schiavo of the two incidents during a CNN segment following the incident.  “I think previously they were just fortunate that the shrapnel hit the plane and not the window.”

The National Transportation Safety Board had not yet completed its final report on the 2016 Southwest Airlines uncontained engine failure by the time of the latest uncontained engine failure. NTSB final reports contain recommendations for inspections and changes so the accidents and incidents are not repeated. The FAA’s proposed Airworthiness Directive never became final with the force of law and thus that opportunity to avert tragedy was also missed.

What caused the latest Southwest explosion is not yet known. Additional details are expected to be released following the NTSB investigation.

Motley Rice aviation attorneys have experience investigating plane disasters, and have represented families when mechanical failures and other issues were found to be at fault. For more information, contact attorney Mary Schiavo at 843.216.9138 or [email protected].