Banker and mother of two Jennifer Riordan has been identified as the passenger who died after being partially sucked through a broken window on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas.
Witnesses said Ms Riordan, a 42-year-old Wells Fargo employee, was sucked headfirst out a window shattered by debris when one of the plane’s engines exploded.
Fellow passengers dragged the injured woman inside and tried to plug the hole while others gave her CPR.
The plane made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport and Ms Riordan was rushed to hospital, where she later died.
She was on the way back to Dallas from a New York business trip.
Seven of the 143 other passengers were injured by a shower of debris flung into the plane by the force of the engine’s explosion.
Amy McCarty, assistant principal at Albuquerque Catholic school, attended by Ms Riordan’s two children, confirmed she died in the disaster.
In an email to parents, Ms McCarty said “the family needs all the prayers we can offer”.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has opened an investigation into the unexplained mid-air incident.
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters the type of engine, a CFM56, is “very widely used in commercial transport”.
It was the first fatal accident in US commercial aviation accident since 2009.
Dr Nick Hutchins, an engineering professor at the University of Melbourne, said it was “extremely rare” for a cabin to suddenly depressurise – but that it was “pretty close to my worst nightmare”.
It would have been an “enormous struggle” for passengers to pull Ms Riordan in from the blown out window, Dr Hutchins told The New Daily.
“It’s amazing to me that people had the foresight and the ability to pull the passenger back in,” he said.
“There’s going to be a big mass of air that’s trying to escape or exhaust through that blown out window extremely quickly so the force acting on somebody close to or even being sucked our through that window would be extremely large.”
— Joe Marcus (@joeasaprap) April 17, 2018
Despite the incident, air travel is “still extremely safe, compared to any other activities that we routinely take part in during any given day, such as driving or crossing the street”, Dr Hutchins said.
Flight 1380 took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport and was diverted to Philadelphia just under an hour later.
The engine on the plane’s left side threw off shrapnel when it blew apart, shattering a window and causing rapid cabin depressurisation.
“We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” captain Tammy Jo Shults told air traffic controllers in audio from the cockpit released by NBC News.
Asked by a controller if the jet was on fire, Mr Shults said it was not, but added, “They said there is a hole and someone went out.”
The plane, which was bound for Dallas Love Field, had been inspected as recently as Sunday and no problems were found, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement.
He said the plane went through 40,000 takeoffs and landings since it was delivered in July 2000, including 10,000 since its last overhaul.
The family of the victim was the airline’s primary concern, he said.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel told a media conference that seven passengers were treated at the scene for minor injuries but not taken to hospital.
Commissioner Thiel said the passengers and crew “did some pretty amazing things under very difficult circumstances”.
He said a “fuel leak and small fire in one of the engines” was discovered after the plane landed and firefighters used foam to extinguish the flames.
Photos posted on social media showed passengers wearing oxygen masks, the blown out window and what remained of the left engine.
Passenger Marty Martinez told CBS News within 30 minutes of takeoff something went wrong with the airplane.
He shared a photo of Facebook showing him with an oxygen mask, captioned, “Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!!”
“All of a sudden, we heard an explosion and I come to find out that the engine exploded on the left side of the plane,” he told CBS.
“That explosion caused one of the windows to explode in row 17 of the plane, which was just two aisles over from me.
“I thought I was cataloging the last moments of my existence. It was absolutely terrifying.
“The plane felt like it was freefalling going down and we were probably going down for 10 or 15 minutes and of course, everyone is freaking out. Everyone is crying. It was the scariest experience.”
The Boeing 737 is the world’s most-sold aircraft and its engines are the most widely used in the aircraft industry and are reported to be among the most reliable.
Any design issues with the long-established CFM56 engine could have repercussions for fleets worldwide.
But given that thousands of the engines are already in use globally, industry experts say the focus of the investigation is more likely to fall on one-off production or maintenance issues.
-with Christiane Barro