A Southwest passenger died when the left engine of a Boeing 737-700 New York-Dallas flight carrying 143 passengers and a five-member crew exploded in mid-air blowing open a window near the engine and prompting an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Flying debris of the engine also hit the fuselage, leading to depressurisation of the cabin.
Horrified passengers and crew watched as a woman passenger was sucked into the hole where the window stood. Some of them quickly pulled her back. Later, crew members were attending a woman passenger who suffered a heart attack.
Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), confirmed one fatality but did not identify the dead. It is not clear whether the woman sucked into the window hole was the one who later suffered a heart attack.
Sumwalt blamed the accident on engine failure. NTSB will be examining whether a fuel leak sparked the engine fire which broke out around 11.20 am, an hour after Southwest flight 1380 took off from LaGuardia Airport.
The NTSB has dispatched investigators to Philadelphia. FBI are holding the passengers and crew for interviews. The engine will be shipped to NTSB headquarters to piece together what went wrong with it.
When the plane landed in Philadelphia airport, parts of the engine were missing.
Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults, who safely landed the plane saving so many lives, was a navy pilot. She won praise from
passengers for her presence of mind.