One person has died after a Southwest plane engine failed in midair today, marking the first accidental domestic airline fatality in nine years, said the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Flight 1380 was en route from New York City’s LaGuardia International Airport to Dallas Love Field when the engine failure forced the plane to make an emergency landing at the Philadelphia International Airport this morning.
Passenger Matt Tranchin said the flight took a turn when he saw a “huge explosion and glass shattering three rows ahead of me.”
“Flight attendants rushed up. There was momentary chaos. Everyone kind of descended on where this hole was. As passengers, we weren’t sure if they were trying to cover up the hole, but the plane smelled like smoke. There was ash coming through the ventilation system. We started dropping,” Tranchin told ABC station WPVI in Philadelphia. “Some of the crew couldn’t hold back their horror. And some were crying as they looked out through the open window onto the engine.”
Passengers posted photos from inside showing their midair oxygen masks, a blown-out window and the remains of an engine.
Witnesses have described seeing a woman be partially sucked out a window near the engine. Officials have not confirmed these details.
Passenger Jim Demetros, who said he was about three rows ahead of where the engine failed, told ABC News everybody was looking at “the woman who was sitting next to the window that had blown out.”
“It was a pretty harrowing experience,” he said, adding that the “crew did fantastic job … keeping everyone calm.”
Another passenger, Cassie Adams, said she was sitting “right over the engine” and could see the damage immediately after it failed.
A few minutes after the oxygen masks came down, the window two rows from behind where Adams was sitting blew out, “and the woman was sucked out,” she told ABC News.
“Two brave men immediately responded and helped grab her and try to pull her back in,” Adams said.
The men were able to pull the woman back in and performed CPR on her, Adams said. One of the men then stood in front of the broken window so no one else would get hurt, she said, adding that she thought “the plane was going down.”
“It was terrifying,” Adams said. “Those men are heroes.”
Seven people were minorly injured but not taken to hospitals, officials said. The NTSB said 144 passengers and five crew members were on board.
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt described the emergency as engine failure. The crew had reported damage to the main body of the plane, an engine and a window, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.
“This is a sad day and on behalf of the entire Southwest family I want to extend my deepest sympathies for the family and the loved ones of our deceased customer,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said. “They are our immediate and primary concern and we will do all that we can to support them during this difficult time and the difficult days ahead.
“The safety of our customers and our crew is always our uncompromising priority,” Kelly added. “I do want to thank and commend our flight crew for their swift action and for safely landing this aircraft. I also want to thank all involved in Philadelphia for their quick professional and compassionate response.
“I’m immensely grateful there are no other reports of injuries but truly this is a tragic loss,” Kelly said. “Please join us in offering thoughts and prayers and support to all of those affected by today’s tragedy.”
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a statement, “The department extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the airline passenger who was fatally injured today. The department’s priority is to work with the NTSB, which will lead the investigation, to determine the cause and the steps necessary to ensure the safety of the traveling public. I commend the pilots who safely landed the aircraft, and the crew and fellow passengers who provided support and care for the injured, preventing what could have been far worse.”
The runway was closed for over two hours but has since reopened.
The NTSB and the FAA are investigating. Boeing said it is providing technical help to the investigation and Southwest said it is cooperating.
The last accidental domestic airline fatality in 2009, when Colgan 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and a person on the ground.
ABC News’ Becky Perlow, Amanda Maile, Daniel Steinberger, Jim Sicile, Jeff Cook, Brian Hartman and Josh Hoyos contributed to this report