By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday hailed the “tremendous bravery” of the crew and passengers aboard a damaged Southwest Airlines plane that was forced into an emergency landing in Philadelphia last month, saying, “Everybody’s talking about it.”
Trump also paid tribute to Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old Wells Fargo bank executive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who died of injuries suffered after she was partially sucked out of a window that had been broken by shrapnel.
“Our hearts break for the family of the passenger who tragically lost their life,” the president said in the Oval Office, surrounded by the two pilots, three flight attendants and five passengers who assisted frightened passengers. “We send our prayers to Jennifer’s husband and their two beautiful young children. We ask God to hold this family close as they grieve the loss of a loving wife and mother.”
Trump said, “She must have been a fantastic woman.” Seven other passengers suffered physical injuries.
Another passenger is suing Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and engine maker CFM International for negligence, saying she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the emergency. The passenger, Lilia Chavez, says in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Philadelphia that she sat three seats behind the shattered window and witnessed “the horror” of what happened to Riordan.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 was headed from New York to Dallas with 149 people on board in April when it was forced to land in Philadelphia after an engine on the Boeing 737 exploded at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Shrapnel damaged the fuselage and broke the window.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Trump added to the praise that the pilot, Capt. Tammie Jo Shults, has earned for helping prevent a far worse outcome, saying she did an “incredible job.”
“Everybody’s talking about it. They’re still talking about it. They’ll be talking about it for a long time,” he told Shults, who was one of the first female Navy fighter pilots and flew training missions as an enemy pilot during Operation Desert Storm.
Trump also commended several passengers who came to the aid of other travelers, including a firefighter who helped pull Riordan back inside the aircraft and a retired nurse who administered CPR.
“The actions of the crew and passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 shows the great character of our nation,” Trump said.
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt has said a crack on a blade inside the engine led to the failure that blew debris at the aircraft.
Federal regulators are expanding an emergency order for airlines to inspect fan blades in Boeing 737 engines for microscopic cracks that indicate metal weakness. Investigators believe cracks caused a fan blade on Flight 1380 to break off and trigger the deadly engine breakup, though a final determination on the cause of the accident is likely a year or more away.
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