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Southwest Airlines incident: One dead after engine 'explosion' forces emergency landing in Philadelphia

The aircraft’s engine exploded as it made the trip from New York City to Dallas

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 17 April 2018 21:30 BST
Aerial video shows grounded plane at Philadelphia airport

One person has been killed after a Southwest Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the jet's engine exploded west of the city and caused depressurisation in the cabin.

Authorities did not immediately detail who may have been killed. A woman was reportedly pulled partway out of the plane after a piece of shrapnel from the engine smashed into the plane. One individual was taken to hospital, while as many as seven others were treated for minor injuries.

The plane landed safely after the incident, and firefighters could be seen responding to the scene while some people exited the aircraft on crutches. The National Transportation Safety Board, which was dispatched following the emergency landing, later said that investigators were looking into the matter as an "engine failure" event.

Passenger Marty Martinez, who posted a video showing passengers with oxygen masks as the plane descended, told CBS News that "there was blood everywhere".

"First there was an explosion, and then, almost immediately, the oxygen masks came down and probably within a matter of 10 seconds the engine hit a window and busted it wide open," Mr Martinez continued.

Officials say that the descent — from the time of the initial failure west of Philadelphia until it landed at the airport, southeast of the city's downtown — happened in "a fairly rapid manner", and information provided by FlightRadar24 showed the plane dropped from 30,000 feet to 13,000 feet in five minutes. The whole descent took about 15 minutes.

The plane, which was travelling from New York City To Dallas, was a part of the fleet owned by Southwest Airlines, one of the world's safest airlines that boasts of zero previous deaths from crashes since starting operations in Texas in 1971.

After the engine failure, passengers began posting pictures and videos of the damaged engine on the left hand side of the jet.

“One passenger, a woman, was partially ... was drawn out towards the out of the plane... she was pulled back by other passengers,” Todd Bauer, a man who said he was the father of the female passenger who was partially sucked out of the plane, told NBC in a phone interview.

Another passenger told CNN that a piece of the plane's engine had acted like shrapnel, smashing into the plane and causing serious injury.

"We left LaGuardia heading to Dallas and we were west of Philly when we lost the left side engine and diverted to Philly," that passenger said. "Shrapnel hit the window, causing a serious injury; no other details about that, several medical personnel on the flight tended to the injured passenger."

One passenger told the network the plane touched down somewhat normally, all things considered.

“It definitely was a stable landing,” Kristopher Johnson said. “When we finally landed it was relatively smooth. Kind of a typical landing.”

Southwest released a statement acknowledging the emergency landing, and said they were working with passengers and crews regarding the incident.

“We are aware that Southwest flight #1380 from New York La Guardia (LGA) to Dallas Love Field (DAL) has diverted to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). We are in the process of transporting customers and crew into the terminal. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-700, has 143 Customers and five Crewmembers onboard,” the statement read.

“We are in the process of gathering more information. Safety is always our top priority at Southwest Airlines, and we are working diligently to support our customers and crews at this time.”

The airline, based in Dallas, is likely soon to overtake Delta to become the carrier that flies the highest number of domestic passengers.

The Philadelphia airport remained open, but a Twitter account warned passengers to expect delays.

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