For 20 minutes, the Southwest Airlines jet was a normal flight from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard. The plane was flying at 32,500 feet Tuesday morning as passengers settled in for the nearly four-hour flight. Suddenly, the alarms blared in the cockpit as what sounded like explosions boomed from the left side of the plane. Oxygen masks swiftly dangled from the ceiling.

Southwest victim's cause of death confirmed as hero pilot releases first statement

The death of a woman who was killed after an engine exploded on a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this week has been ruled accidental as her cause of death is revealed, according to reports.

Jennifer Riordan died from blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso, Philadelphia Department of Public Health spokesman James Garrow said Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

» Who was Jennifer Riordan, the passenger killed on a Southwest Airlines flight?   

People was unable to immediately reach the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office for further comment.

Riordan, 43, was critically injured as she was sucked out of a window of the plane that broke in the engine explosion. While other passengers were able to pull her back into the aircraft, witnesses reported that she was in cardiac arrest as some aboard the plane attempted to revive her.

» Hero cowboy, firefighter pulled woman back inside Southwest flight after explosion

The bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was sitting directly next to the window and wearing her seatbelt, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt told CBS Philadelphia.

“I saw some passengers unbuckling and everyone crowding over this one aisle and the flight attendants run over and we see people lunging over people — it was just madness,” a passenger from New Jersey who wishes to remain anonymous told People. “A passenger later told me he pulled the woman who had gone out the window in and the top part of her body was out of the window.”

The passenger continued, “They were fighting to get her back in. It was a struggle, it looked like it took a few people. There was quite a bit of blood. I saw a large group of people around her aisle and I saw all this foam and it looked like it was from a fire extinguisher, but it was fire suppression foam from the engine. I saw a passenger pumping on her chest performing CPR and someone ran up to the front of the plane where they got a defibrillator.”

“Jennifer’s vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country. Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured,” the statement continued. “But foremost, she is the bedrock of our family. She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other. Her beauty and love is evident through her children.”

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults, who has been hailed as a hero for staying calm throughout the horrifying ordeal and successfully landing the plane, released a statement along with the flight’s first officer, Darren Ellisor, on Wednesday.

» Who is Tammie Jo Shults, pilot of Southwest flight that had engine explosion?

“As Captain and First Office of the Crew of five who worked to serve our Customers aboard Flight 1380 yesterday, we all feel we were simply doing our jobs,” they said in the statement. “Our hearts are heavy. On behalf of the entire Crew, we appreciate the outpouring of suport from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family’s profound loss.”

They added that they will not participate in interviews as they focus on working with investigators.

In a video message on Tuesday, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly shared his condolences with the family and friends of Riordan.

“On behalf of the Southwest family, I want to extend my deepest sympathies for the family and the loved ones of our deceased customer,” Kelly said. “They are our immediate and primary concern and we Weill do all that we can to support them during this difficult time.”

Related Stories