The first death on a U.S. airline in over nine years occurred on April 17, 2018, at mid-morning, onboard a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas. The flight was diverted to Philadelphia. The death also marks the first time a Southwest Airlines passenger was killed. The accident was caused by Southwest Airlines engine damage.
The investigation into the accident is only now beginning. Nonetheless, some basic information is known about the incident.
Airplane Engine Explodes
The horrific situation began when an engine on the plane exploded, spraying shrapnel onto the fuselage of the plane, damaging it. In addition, pieces from the engine blew out a window on the aircraft.
When the window blew out, one passenger was sucked halfway out the aircraft. The cabin pressure dropped significantly, jeopardizing the welfare of everyone in the cabin. The passenger sucked halfway out the window was identified as a vice president with Wells Fargo Bank named Jennifer Riordan, a resident of Albuquerque.
Other passengers and members of the flight crew grabbed onto Riordan and eventually were able to pull her back into the cabin of the plane. When she was pulled back into the cabin, after a great deal of effort, it was apparent that she was severely injured.
Two other passengers began performing CPR on her, to no avail. She was immediately conveyed to the hospital when the plan made an emergency landing in Philadelphia, where she was declared dead on arrival.
There were a total of 149 people on the plane, including passengers and crew. Seven other people sustained non-life threatening injuries as a result of the explosion.
Early News on the Cause of the Southwest Airlines Engine Damage and Accident
National Transportation Safety Board investigators have preliminary information on the cause of the accident. One of the engine fan blades broke at the base. The NTSB has been able to confirm that the break was caused by metal fatigue.
The breaking of the blade cause the metal piece to fly loose and rip apart the engine casing. It was those pieces, described as being like shrapnel, that resulted in the additional damage to the plane, including the blown out window.
Further Inspections of 727 Aircraft
The type of engine that blew up on the flight in question is used throughout the Southwest Airlines fleet. All aircraft in the Southwest fleet are 727s.
The engine was developed by CFM International. In the case of the Southwest flight in which the fan blade broke lose due to metal fatigue, the engine itself appears to have been built by GE.
Southwest has immediately initiated an inspection of all engines in its fleet. United Airlines followed suit in very short succession. Other airlines are expected to the same, if they have not already commenced the process.
Previously, GE evidently sent out an advisement to airlines that had these types of engines manufactured by that company to check for metal fatigue. Southwest stated that it had complied with the advisement and had previously inspected all engines in its fleet.
Parties Responsible for Accident Caused by Southwest Airlines Engine Damage
One of the more challenging aspects of investigating an airplane accident is determining what parties are responsible. There are instances in which multiple parties can be liable or responsible for something like the Southwest Airlines engine damage and accident. In this case, potentially responsible parties include:
- engine manufacturer
- engine designer
- maintenance provider (if a third party)
Southwest Airlines Engine Damage, Accident, and Wrongful Death
The family of an individual killed in an accident like the one associated with the Southwest Airlines engine explosion may have the ability to pursue what legally is known as a wrongful death claim and wrongful death lawsuit, according to The Doan Law Firm. Through a wrongful death case, certain family members seek compensation for losses that may include:
- final medical bills
- funeral and burial expenses
- lost companionship
- lost support or lost income
Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, which will become clearer as the investigation proceeds, a family in this type of situation may also be able to see what are known as punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. This represents additional compensation when the conduct of a party that contributed to causing an airplane accident is deemed to be particularly reckless or egregious.
The Doan Law Firm Airplane Crash Hotline
If you have any questions about legal rights following an airplace accident, The Doan Law Firm Airplane Crash Hotline at (800) 349-0000 is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. You can scehdule an initial consultation at your convenience at any one of the firms offices located coast to coast. There is no charge for an initial consultation.