PHILADELPHIA — For 20 minutes, the Southwest Airlines jet was a normal flight from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard.
The plane was flying at 32,500 feet Tuesday morning as passengers settled in for the nearly four-hour flight.
Suddenly, the alarms blared in the cockpit as what sounded like explosions boomed from the left side of the plane. Oxygen masks swiftly dangled from the ceiling.
What followed was a terrifying sequence of events that ended with one woman dead, seven people injured and an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport.
‘Everybody was going crazy’
Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 took off from LaGuardia at 10:43 a.m. and landed in Philadelphia about 11:20 a.m., federal officials said.
The Boeing 737 was headed to Dallas with 144 passengers and five crew members . For about 20 minutes, everything seemed calm. Then what sounded like an explosion suddenly jolted the plane, passenger Marty Martinez said.
“I heard a loud boom and about five seconds later, all the oxygen masks deployed,” he said. “I immediately knew something was wrong. It just didn’t register what could have been.”
Something in the engine broke apart midair and burst through the window, passengers said. The shattered window partially sucked a woman out of the plane as passengers struggled to pull her back in.
“Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming,” Martinez said. “As the plane is going down, I am literally purchasing internet just so I can get some kind of communication to the outside world.”
Objects flying out
As the plane quickly descended, passengers close to the woman scrambled to hold her tight. Others plugged the gaping hole on the window with jackets and other objects, said Martinez, who was sitting two rows away from the woman. Those items got sucked out of the plane, too, he said.
“We could feel the air from the outside coming in, and then we had smoke kind of coming in the window,” Martinez said.
In the chaos, it was hard to hear anyone. Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 estimated the plane descended from 31,684 feet to 10,000 feet in a little over five minutes.
“It was very loud, so announcements from the pilot or any other crew would not have been heard,” passenger Amy Serafini said.
Passenger Matt Tranchin watched the commotion as people tried to help.
“Everyone kind of descended on where this hole was,” he said. He thought about his family, and whether he’d see them again.
“That I’ll never live to see my son born. That I’ll never be able to say goodbye to my wife, say goodbye to my parents. But I am. I feel really very fortunate for that,” he told CNN affiliate WPVI.
Nurse performs CPR
Passengers finally got the woman back in her seat and a nurse aboard the flight volunteered to perform CPR.
“I went back and we started CPR on the lady, which we continued for about 20 minutes. We were still doing CPR when the plane landed,” said nurse Peggy Williams. “We made every effort that we could possibly make to save this woman’s life.”
Martinez said it was a rough landing, and he wasn’t sure if the plane was going to crash. The jet could have been landing on a freeway or a skyscraper for all he knew, he said.
“I didn’t know if we were going to be running into a building. I didn’t know what state the plane or even the pilot was in, if we were in condition to land,” he said. “Finally when we … came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive.”
Air traffic call
Before the plane landed, the pilot asked the air traffic controller to send medics to meet the plane.
“Injured passengers OK, and is your airplane physically on fire?” the air traffic controller asked.
“No, it’s not on fire, but part of it is missing. They said there’s a hole and that someone went out,” the pilot responded.
“Um, I’m sorry, you said there was a hole and somebody went out? Southwest 1380, it doesn’t matter we will work it out there,” the air traffic controller said.
The air traffic controller asked other planes to prepare for the airport to be shut down.
The National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary look at the engine shows one of its 24 fan blades was missing.
A first look showed evidence of metal fatigue where the blade attached to a hub, according to Chairman Robert Sumwalt of NTSB.
The crew reported damage to one of the aircraft’s engines as well as the fuselage and a window, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the plane was inspected Sunday, but he had no details on what parts were examined. “I’m not aware of any issues with the airplane or any issues with the engine involved,” Kelly said at a news conference.
“This is a sad day and our hearts go out to the family and the loved ones of the deceased customer,” he said. “We will do all that we can to support them during this very difficult time.”
The woman killed was identified as Jennifer Riordan, 43, according to CNN affiliate KOAT. It said she worked for Wells Fargo in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Southwest said it’s the first in-flight death in company history.
Flight recorders found
The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have been sent to Washington, Sumwalt said. The flight data recorder showed the plane was at 32,500 feet when the engine failed about 20 minutes into the flight.
The cowling for the engine was found about 70 miles from where the plane landed.
In August 2016, a Southwest Airlines jet flying from New Orleans to Orlando was forced to make an emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida, when an engine failed.