About 20 minutes after Albuquerque residents Andrea Nelson and Kevin Nelson boarded Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 from New York to Dallas, they heard a loud bang and the aircraft began to shake and bank to the left, according to a lawsuit the couple filed recently against the airline.
As the plane began to make a rapid emergency decent, engine debris struck and shattered a passenger window some rows ahead of them, causing a rapid loss of cabin pressure, the suit says.
Their ears began to hurt. They smelled something burning. Oxygen masks dropped from overhead.
Then, the lawsuit says,“the Nelsons witnessed in horror as the force of the depressurization pulled an innocent passenger partially through the shattered window and they watched as passengers risked their lives to pull the passenger back into the aircraft and attempted to save her life.”
Meanwhile, the complaint says, the open window caused a “whirlwind of airflow and airborne debris” inside the cabin, which struck the Nelsons and obstructed their breathing.
“The passenger next to Andrea Nelson held her hand and continuously repeated the Lord’s Prayer,” according to the complaint. “Andrea Nelson used her cellphone to record a final goodbye video to her young son. Kevin Nelson was able to reach his mother [by phone] and told her he was going to die on the plane, that it was going to crash.”
The plane did not crash. But Jennifer Riordan, the Albuquerque woman who was partially sucked out of the broken window, died from her injuries.
Officials later determined a “fatigue fracture” had caused a metal fan blade in the plane’s engine to come loose and hit the window.
The Nelsons’ lawsuit accuses Southwest and several other defendants, including Boeing and Safran Aircraft Engines, of negligence. They filed it April 16, a day before the one-year anniversary of the flight.
They accuse the airline and makers of the airplane and airplane parts of failing to conduct due diligence through testing or inspections of the airplane and its parts to prevent the occurrence.
The lawsuit alleges Southwest knew about possible deficiencies with the fan blade because a similar malfunction had occurred during a Southwest flight in 2016.
“Defendants’ misconduct placed profits and business over the safety of its customers and continued to operate these engines even though there was confirmation that an unsafe condition existed which had not been corrected since the failure that befell the 2016 incident involving Flight 3472,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges the traumatic flight caused “severe personal injuries” to the Nelsons, “including but not limited to headaches, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, emotional distress, depression … and physical manifestations of the emotional and mental trauma they experienced.”
The couple seek an unspecified amount of compensatory damages for lost earnings and mental, emotional and physical suffering, as well as punitive damages.
Defendants Southwest Airlines, Boeing Distribution Services and CFM International (a joint venture of General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines, a French company) declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The couple’s attorney said that, to her knowledge, at least 10 other passengers on the flight have filed lawsuits.