A recent passenger death aboard a Southwest Airlines flight has resulted in lawsuits and industry investigations. Southwest Airlines is under fire for the death of one passenger and serious injuries to several other passengers caused by sudden engine failure shortly after takeoff.
Southwest Engine Failure Causes Death
In April, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 experienced engine failure 20 minutes after taking off from New York LaGuardia Airport en route to Dallas. Without warning, the left engine suffered a catastrophic fan blade failure which caused debris from the plane’s fuselage to shatter a window and depressurize the cabin. As a result, the aircraft entered into a sudden and rapid emergency descent.
One passenger, Laurie Rogers, was struck by flying debris and suffered physical injuries to her body, as well as ear damage from the cabin’s rapid depressurization. Rogers continues to suffer from vertigo and inner ear problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, and emotional distress as the result of her injuries.
Another passenger, Jennifer Riordan, died as the result of her injuries. When aircraft windows shattered, Ms. Riordan was partially sucked out of the plane. The Southwest flight was diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport for an emergency landing and Ms. Riordan was rushed to a nearby hospital, but died from her personal injuries.
The Southwest death has sparked Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigations and grounded many Airbus and Boeing jets planes with the same engines. Investigations have revealed metal fatigue as a partial cause of the recent Southwest engine failure. Engine manufacturers including Airbus, Boeing, and Rolls-Royce are not offering any quick-fixes to ensure engine safety. As a result, many international flights have been canceled, and flights across the Pacific are especially impacted, since engine safety is affecting their normal flight routes. Airlines with affected engine models are being limited to maximum flights of 2.3 hours, instead of their normal flights of 5.5 hours across the Pacific.
The recent Southwest engine failure is the first in Southwest Airline’s history and the first U.S. airline-passenger fatality due to an accident in more than nine years. The engine that exploded, the CFM-56, has been in service since 1997. It has flown for some 350 million flight hours and has an exceptional reliability record. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the engine model that failed is on all of Southwest Airline’s 737-700s and 737-800s planes, which make up the vast majority of the Southwest’s fleet.