U.S. board to determine probable cause of Southwest engine failure that killed one

By David Shepardson
FILE PHOTO: A traveler checks her baggage at the Southwest Airlines terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday it will meet to determine the probable cause of the April 2018 uncontained engine failure of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 that killed a passenger who was partially sucked out the window.

It said it would meet on Nov. 19.

Jennifer Riordan of New Mexico, a 43-year-old Wells Fargo vice president and mother of two, was killed as she was headed home from a business trip after the engine exploded and shattered a plane window. She was the first person killed on a U.S. commercial airline accident since 2009.

The accident occurred when a fan blade failed on a Boeing 737-700 jet powered by two CFM International CFM56-7B engines which experienced a failure of the left engine after departing New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The plane, bound for Dallas, diverted to Philadelphia International Airport and eight of the 144 passengers suffered minor injuries.

The engine on the plane’s left side spewed shrapnel when it blew apart, shattering a window and causing rapid cabin depressurization, the NTSB said. In 2018, the NTSB said two passengers were eventually able to pull Riordan, who was still in her seat belt, back inside the plane.

At least 14 passengers have sued the airline, Boeing and CFM and at least 11 have settled, according to court filings.

Last November, the NTSB held an investigative hearing into the accident that disclosed the flight crew initially had difficulty reaching flight attendants after the engine failed and did not immediately learn a passenger had been injured.

On Tuesday, Southwest said in a statement it appreciated the work of the NTSB "and each of the parties working to determine the probable cause of the accident. We all have the same goals: to share facts, learn what happened, and prevent this type of event from ever happening again."

CFM International is a transatlantic joint-venture between General Electric Co and France’s Safran SA.

Barry S. Alexander, a lawyer representing Southwest, told a federal judge in New York Friday in a case involving two passengers that the NTSB has taken and retained custody of certain components from the aircraft involved in the accident, including parts from the engine.

"Federal regulations prevent the parties to this lawsuit from accessing them while the NTSB’s investigations are ongoing," Alexander wrote, adding Southwest intends to seek dismissal of the lawsuit.

Boeing told the court it plans to ask that the case be dismissed on a number of grounds.


(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by John Stonestreet and David Gregorio)