The passenger who was killed when Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 suffered engine failure and made an emergency landing on Tuesday died of blunt impact trauma, according to officials.
Jennifer Riordan’s death was ruled accidental, Philadelphia Department of Public Health spokesperson James Garrow confirmed to Newsweek on Thursday. He said she sustained the blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso.
The flight was heading from New York to Dallas when a fan blade in the left engine broke off, caused damage to the plane and forced the pilots to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. A window broke, and Riordan was partially pulled through the opening. Other passengers pulled her back into the aircraft, but she died of her injuries.
Dr. Maria Aini, the medical director of the emergency department at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in the Center City area of Philadelphia, told Newsweek that blunt trauma, which occurs when an object strikes the body or the body strikes an object, affects different body parts in different ways. When the trauma is to the head, the brain could be shaken up within the skull and start bleeding, and there could even be compression of the brain. In the neck, blunt impact trauma could cause spinal fractures and potentially paralyzing compressions of the spine. Down in the chest, internal organs, such as the lungs and heart, may become bruised, and major blood vessels might tear.
Although Aini noted that she does not know all the particulars of what happened to Riordan, she said that given the debris flying off the aircraft: “It sounds like something hit her head, neck and torso area because she was partially sucked out of the plane and there was a lot of debris. She must have been hit probably more than once at major speed.”
Blunt trauma is “usually immediately life-threatening on that kind of scale.”
Riordan, who was from Albuquerque, was a wife and mother and worked for Wells Fargo.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt confirmed during a briefing on Wednesday that the aircraft was climbing to about 32,500 feet at the time of the engine failure. The plane dropped rapidly and banked steeply as oxygen masks dropped for the passengers. The pilots quickly descended and made an emergency landing.
“The time from the initial event to touchdown: 22 minutes,” Sumwalt said.
Riordan, one of 144 passengers, had been seated in row 14.
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