PHILADELPHIA –Passengers aboard a Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight Tuesday heard an explosion before seeing oxygen masks drop from the ceiling and a woman sucked toward a broken window in the plane, a witness said.
“Everybody was going crazy, and yelling and screaming,” passenger Marty Martinez said of the flight, which left New York and was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
“As the plane is going down, I am literally purchasing internet just so I can get some kind of communication to the outside world,” he said.
The plane had suffered damage to one of its engines, and according to passenger Kristopher Johnson, who was sitting near the front of Flight 1380, debris from the engine flew into the window, breaking it and injuring a woman sitting nearby.
[RAW: Southwest pilot speaks with Air Traffic Control officials during emergency landing]
"Shrapnel hit the window causing a serious injury. No other details about that. Several medical personnel on the flight tended to the injured passenger," Johnson said.
The crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines as well as the fuselage and a window, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
The injured woman's arms and body were sucked toward the opening in the plane, Martinez recalled in a phone interview. Objects flew out the hole where the window had been, and "passengers right next to her were holding onto her. And meanwhile, there was blood all over this man's hands. He was tending to her," said Martinez, who was sitting a row or two away from the woman.
Other passengers began trying to plug the hole with jackets and other objects but to no avail. Those items, too, were sucked out of the plane, he said.
Martinez said he didn't think he would survive. Nor did his colleague in an adjacent seat who was scrambling to write one last message to his wife and unborn son, he said.
"We could feel the air from the outside coming in, and then we had smoke kind of coming in the window. Meanwhile, you have passengers that were in that aisle, trying to attend to the woman that was bleeding from the window explosion," he said. "That was just chaos all around."
The plane descended precipitously, Johnson said, but the pilot regained control and informed passengers the flight was headed to Philadelphia.
"The crew did a great job," he said.
It was a rough landing, Martinez said, and things were still so chaotic that he wasn't sure if the plane was going to crash. The jet could have been landing on a freeway for all he knew, he said.
"I didn't know if we were going to be running into a building. I didn't know what state the plane or even the pilot was in, if we were in condition to land," he said. "It was just all incredibly traumatic, and finally when we ... came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive."
Only one of the 148 passengers and crew members on board was seriously injured. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition, said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. Seven others were treated for minor injuries.
"We are in the process of gathering more information," Southwest said in a statement.
Video from the scene showed the plane on the tarmac surrounded by emergency vehicles. The engine on the left wing was badly damaged.
Philadelphia International Airport said the plane landed safely. Passengers using the airport should expect delays, it said.
The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to Philadelphia to investigate the incident. Boeing said it is providing technical assistance in the investigation.
Passengers shared photos of the shredded casing of one of the aircraft's engines.
A Facebook Live video shows a passenger, oxygen mask in one hand and phone in the other, with the caption, "Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!"
"Someone on the plane had a heart attack and it looks like an engine blew out then a window was blown open," Martinez wrote. "We are still on the plane and they are trying to revive a woman on the plane."
Emergency crews met the plane at the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport after it landed safely. At least one person was treated at an area hospital, according to KYW, but the extent of any injuries is not clear.
Southwest Airlines provided this statement:
We are aware that Southwest flight #1380 from New York La Guardia (LGA) to Dallas Love Field (DAL) has diverted to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). We are in the process of transporting Customers and Crew into the terminal. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-700, has 143 Customers and five Crewmembers onboard. We are in the process of gathering more information. Safety is always our top priority at Southwest Airlines, and we are working diligently to support our Customers and Crews at this time.
This is a developing story.