An American Southwest Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines suffered a major mid-flight failure.
One passenger died as a result of the incident, National Transporation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a press conference. The airline later confirmed the fatality and the passenger has been identified as Jennifer Riordan, a vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo bank, according to the Associated Press.
According to Philadelphia fire commissioner Adam Thiel, seven other passengers were treated for minor injuries.
The failure, which caused the front of the engine to disintegrate, sprayed shrapnel that penetrated the cabin of the Boeing 737-700, causing the jet to depressurise.
In an audio communication between the flight crew and air traffic control, the pilot indicates she's been told there's a hole in the plane and that someone has gone out of it. The airline has not confirmed whether a passenger was either partially or completely sucked out of the aircraft.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 was en route from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Love Field in Dallas when the incident occurred.
A ground stop was issued for Philadelphia International Airport following the incident. Southwest Airlines issued the following statement on its website:
"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."
Boeing said in a statement via Twitter that it was working on gathering information.
The aircraft has been identified as N772SW. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the 17.8-year-old Boeing 737-700 was delivered new to Southwest Airlines in July 2000.
The NTSB team arrived in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon, with experts in various areas including power plants and airworthiness.
According to NTSB chairman Sumwalt, an experienced Boeing 737 pilot, the plane's black-box recorders were recovered and would be in Washington, DC, for analysis Tuesday evening.
The aircraft was powered by a pair of CFM International CFM56-7B engines. CFM is a joint venture between GE Aviation and France's Safran Aircraft engines.
"The members of the CFM Team worldwide wish to express their deepest condolences to the family of the victim of this incident," the jet engine maker said in a statement. "CFM will support the NTSB and Southwest Airlines in determining the cause of the accident and CFM and its parent companies, GE and Safran, will make every resource necessary available to ensure support."
Sumwalt said the damaged engine would be transported to an off-site location where investigators could do a tear-down to figure out what happened. CFM has dispatched a team of technical representatives to Philadelphia to assist the NTSB.
After a preliminary evaluation of the failed engine, the NTSB found evidence of metal fatigue at the point where a fan blade broke loose.
Passenger Kristopher Johnson said on Twitter that the crew had done a great job of getting the aircraft down to the ground safely and posted an image of the damaged engine.
"All of the sudden we heard this loud bang, rattling," Johnson told CNN. "Felt like one of the engines went out. Oxygen masks dropped."
Johnson said that shrapnel pierced a window of the aircraft.
Another passenger, Marty Martinez, posted a video to Facebook showing what it was like inside the plane during the landing.
Martinez also told CBS that there was an explosion that blew out the window and that "there was blood everywhere.