PHILADELPHIA — A passenger died Tuesday after a Southwest Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport when its engine exploded on a flight from New York to Dallas, authorities said.
Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Review Board, confirmed the fatality but declined to give details.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel also declined to offer details on that person’s injuries, saying only that the person had been hospitalized in critical condition after landing. Thiel said seven other people aboard were treated at the airport for minor injuries.
Here’s what we know:
— 143 passengers and five crew members were on board Flight 1380, according to Southwest.
— Passenger accounts on social media said a woman was injured by debris that pierced the aircraft’s body after the engine exploded. Officials declined to provide specifics on the person who died.
— Seven other people were treated at the airport for minor injuries, Thiel said at an afternoon news conference.
— According to Flightaware.com, the jet was approaching Central Pennsylvania when it diverted to Philadelphia International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane landed at 11:20 a.m.
— The plane is a Boeing 737-700 that went into service in 2000. It had no reported engine difficulties since 2000, according to a search of an FAA database.
— The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate the incident.
Southwest, headquartered in Dallas, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that it was “gathering more information” about the incident. No officials from the airline were present at a later briefing from city officials.
The FAA said in a statement that the flight was diverted after crew members “reported damage to one of the aircraft’s engines, as well as the fuselage and at least one window.” Thiel said that when the plane was on the ground it had a fuel leak and a small fire in an engine. The incident was placed under control at 12:32 p.m., he said.
One passenger posted a Facebook Live video from the plane during its descent.
The passenger, Marty Martinez, said: “Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!”
Martinez reported that a woman on the plane apparently was injured and that a window blew open.
Timothy Bourman, a 37-year-old pastor from the New York City borough of Queens said in a phone interview that he was in the rear of the plane when he heard a loud boom.
“All of the sudden, it felt like we dropped 100 feet,” Bourman told The Inquirer and Daily News. “Everybody knew something’s going on — ‘This is bad, like really bad.’ A lot of people started panicking and yelling, just real scared.
“We were kind of out of control for a while. It seemed like the pilot was having a hard time controlling the plane. Honestly I think we just all thought we were going down.”
Bourman, who was flying with his wife, texted a family member to share a message with their three daughters. He said in the message that he loved them and that Jesus loved them.
As the plane descended into Philadelphia, the flight attendants told passengers to brace for impact. Bourman said he and his wife thought that was it.
“We’re just all really thankful to be alive right now,” he said. “Thankful to God, thankful to that pilot.”
Bourman said a woman went into cardiac arrest during the descent.
Another passenger told NBC-10 that a woman was nearly sucked out of a hole in the fuselage.
Passenger Matt Tranchin, 34, of Dallas, was waiting in a secure area of a Terminal A East about 1:30 p.m. when he spoke with reporters through the FaceTime app.
“You spend 20 to 30 minutes thinking you’re not going to make it,” he said. “At this point, it’s just connecting with family, friends, loved ones. … We were very shaken up.”
Tranchin said the plane was in flight when he and other passengers heard a “loud explosion” that shattered a window, and wind began blowing through the plane along with the “smell of smoke, confusion, chaos.” The flight attendants came over, saw an injured passenger, and tried to cover the hole. Some passengers also tried to close the hole, he said.
The plane dropped. Air masks fell. “The next 15 to 20 minutes,” Tranchin said, “I spent … texting my wife, my family, that I love them, saying goodbye.”
Based on its registration number, the plane is an 18-year-old Boeing 737. The plane had no reported engine difficulties since 2000, according to a search of an FAA database for “service difficulty reports.”
Airline carriers are required to report any “failures, malfunctions and defects” in aircraft to the FAA. The reports can range in seriousness from burned-out emergency lights to fuselage cracks to engine failures.
Flightaware, a flight tracking website, said that the plane departed New York’s La Guardia Airport at 10:27 a.m. and landed in Philadelphia at 11:23 a.m. A map shows the plane diverting east of Harrisburg and turning toward Philadelphia.
Philadelphia International Airport issued a statement saying: “Southwest Airlines flight 1380, which departed LaGuardia for Dallas Love Field (DAL), diverted to PHL because of an operational event. The plane landed safely. No slides were deployed. At this time, passengers are coming down a mobile stairway and are being bused to the terminal.”
The NTSB, meanwhile, said it was sending a team to investigate.
The Southwest flight is the second plane to make an emergency landing in the region in the last 24 hours. Early Monday evening, a United Airlines flight from Newark heading to Palm Beach International Airport was forced to land at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., after suffering a mechanical issue midflight. No injuries were reported.