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Investigation Continues After First U.S. Airline Fatality in Nine Years

On April 17, a woman was killed on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 when the left engine exploded. The twin-engine Boeing 737 was traveling from New York to Dallas with 149 people onboard when shrapnel from the explosion penetrated the aircraft’s fuselage and broke a window in the passenger cabin causing depressurization and the deployment of oxygen masks. Jennifer Riordan, a banking executive from New Mexico, was sucked partway out of a nearby window and struck by some of the debris. Several of the passengers ran to pull her back into the cabin and gave her CPR, while other passengers plugged the hole. The flight made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. At least 7 other passengers were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that a preliminary investigation of the engine revealed that one of the titanium blades on the propeller broke off possibly due to metal fatigue. A piece of the engine covering the propeller was found about 70 miles from where the airplane landed, which should have prevented any parts from flying out. Design flaws, manufacturing issues, or maintenance issues are all possible explanations for the cause of this unfortunate incident at this point in the investigation.

This was the first fatality on a U.S. airline in more than nine years. However, a similar occurrence happened in 2016 when a Southwest Boeing 737-700 blew an engine as it flew from New Orleans to Orlando. In that incident, shrapnel from the explosion tore a hole just above the wing. The NTSB said that a propeller blade had also broken off due to metal fatigue. After the incident, engine-maker CFM International recommended all airlines perform an ultrasonic inspection of certain propeller blades and replace any that failed the inspection. A similar inspection of Southwest Airlines’ engines is currently underway to determine whether other planes in their fleet may present a danger to other passengers.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a passenger on an airplane, it is important to find a skilled law firm to handle your claim. The law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner is the oldest personal injury firm in Texas, and our attorneys can assist you with your claim. Call us today at 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884 for your free consultation.


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