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Passengers describe Southwest Airlines mid-air horror

Passengers pull her back in, but she later dies

NEW YORK: The woman who died when an engine exploded on a New York to Dallas Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday was nearly sucked out of the aircraft when cabin pressure was lost after a window shattered, but she was pulled back in by other passengers.

According to a passenger on the flight, Mr Marty Martinez: "Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming."

He said objects flew out of the hole where the window had shattered, and "passengers right next to her were holding onto (the woman being pulled out)."

A man in a cowboy hat also rushed forward a few rows "to grab that lady to pull her back in", another passenger, Mr Alfred Tumlinson, told the Associated Press.

"She was out of the plane. He couldn't do it by himself, so another gentleman came over and helped to get her back in the plane, and they got her."

Mr Martinez told CNN: "And, meanwhile, there was blood all over this man's hands. He was tending to her."

The woman who was injured "made no noise at all", he added.

Mr Eric Zilbert, an administrator with the California Education Department who was on the flight, said: "From her waist above, she was outside of the plane."

Passengers struggled to plug the hole while giving the badly injured woman CPR.

The woman killed was Ms Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old bank executive and mother-of-two from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ms Amanda Bourman, another passenger on the flight, described the scene to The Aiken Standard: "I heard this woman scream about midway up the plane, and then all of sudden , I saw this big, tall cowboy.

"You could hear the wind whooshing like out of the plane itself. We thought a door had popped open, but we found out later that a window had broke and a woman was being sucked out of the plane.

"The cowboy pulled her back into the plane and somehow covered the window."

Ms Bourman told the Associated Press: "Everybody was crying and upset. You had a few passengers that were strong, and they kept yelling to people, 'It's okay. We're going to do this.'"

She saw emergency workers use a defibrillator to help the woman after she was taken off the plane when it landed.

Training help former fighter pilot save Southwest flight

PHILADELPHIA: The pilot who safely landed a stricken Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday got her first flying experience in the US Navy, touching down F-18 fighter jets at 240kmh on aircraft carriers.

Ms Tammie Jo Shults, 56, may have drawn on her navy skills when one of the two engines on her Boeing 737-700 blew and broke apart at 9,800m on Tuesday, forcing her to implement a rapid descent towards Philadelphia International Airport.

The explosion killed one passenger and injured several.

One of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy, Ms Shults calmly told air traffic control that part of her plane was missing, and she would need ambulances on the runway.

"We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we are going to need to slow down a bit," Ms Shults told a controller.

Many of the 144 passengers sang her praise on social media after Ms Shults thanked them for their bravery as they left the plane. "The pilot Tammy (sic) Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly," said Ms Amanda Bourman on Instagram.

EMERGENCY DESCENTS

Passengers identified Ms Shults as the pilot. Southwest Airlines declined to name the crew of flight 1380 and Ms Shults was not immediately available for comment.

Authorities said the crew did what they were trained to do.

"They are in the simulator and practice emergency descents... and losing an engine... They did the job that professional airline pilots are trained to do," National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters.

Ms Shults might never have become a pilot if she had not been so determined to fly from a young age.

She is quoted on fighter plane blog F-16.net saying she tried to attend an aviation career day at high school but was told they did not accept girls.

A native of New Mexico, she never lost the urge to fly and, after studying medicine in Kansas, applied to the Air Force. It would not let her take the test to become a pilot, but the US Navy did.

She was one of the first female F-18 pilots and became an instructor before she left the Navy in 1993 and joined Southwest, according to the blog. - REUTERS

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