Woman sucked from Southwest Airlines plane died of 'blunt trauma'

Sharon Marris, News Reporter

More details have been released about the death of a woman who was partially sucked out of a plane window in the US.

Jennifer Riordan, 43, died after an engine failed on Southwest Flight 1380 and debris smashed the window beside her seat in the 14th row of the plane.

Witnesses said Mrs Riordan, who was a mother-of-two from Albuquerque and an executive at Wells Fargo bank, was out of the aircraft to her waist after the window broke.

Philadelphia's medical examiner has ruled that the cause of Mrs Riordan's death was blunt trauma to the head, neck and torso.

The death was ruled an accident, spokesman Jim Garrow said.

The passengers were praised for pulling Mrs Riordan back into the plane and trying to save her.

Seven other people were injured before the plane - which was travelling from New York to Dallas with 144 passengers and five crew on board - made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the captain and first officer on the flight have issued a statement through the airline, saying they were "simply doing our jobs".

Captain Tammie Jo Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor said: "Our hearts are heavy.

"On behalf of the entire crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our co-workers as we all reflect on one family's profound loss.

"We joined our company today in focused work and interviews with investigators.

"We are not conducting media interviews and we ask that the public and the media respect our focus."

:: Hero pilot praised for 'nerves of steel' was US navy trailblazer

Mrs Shults, who began her aviation career as one of the first female pilots in the US navy, was praised for her "nerves of steel" after calmly and safely landing the plane.

She was one of the first women to fly the F/A-18 Hornet fighter and later rose to the rank of lieutenant commander.

But in the 1980s, being a woman prevented her from flying combat roles, relegating her to support or training positions.

The mother-of-two left the Navy in 1993, moving to Southwest Airlines with her husband, also a pilot.

Her brother-in-law Gary Shults described the 56-year-old as a "formidable woman, as sharp as a tack".

He said: "My brother says she's the best pilot he knows."

Her mother-in-law Virginia Shults described her as a devout Christian, saying that her faith may have contributed to her calmness during the emergency and the landing.

"I know God was with her, and I know she was talking to God," she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Southwest Airlines announced it was speeding up its investigation of engines related to the one that failed on the flight.

"The accelerated inspections are being performed out of an abundance of caution and are expected to be completed over the next 30 days. The accelerated checks are ultrasonic inspections of fan blades of the CFM56 engines," the airline said.

The US Federal Aviation Administration also said it would order the inspection of 220 jet engines, while makers CFM said in a statement that it was supporting the investigation.

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said a preliminary investigation found an engine fan blade was missing, having apparently broken and there was metal fatigue at the point where it would usually be attached.

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