By Lori Aratani
The Washington Post
Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the engine, alleging that they failed to take proper safeguards to prevent the fatal tragedy.
One person died and several others were injured in the April 17 incident, the first passenger fatality on a U.S. carrier since 2009, and the first in Southwest’s 51-year history
“As a direct result of the frightful, death-threatening Flight 1380 incident, each Plaintiff suffered severe mental, emotional and psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries,” says the 20-page lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York on behalf of passengers Cindy Candy Arenas, Jaky Alyssa Arenas, Jiny Alexa Arenas, Elhadji Cisse, Donald Kirkland, Beverly Kirkland, Connor Brown and Cassandra Adams. Joe Leos Arenas, the husband of Cindy Arenas, also is included in the suit. Though he was not aboard the flight, the suit contends he should be included because he has suffered, ” . . . the loss of consortium of his wife.”
Southwest, the Boeing Company, GE Aviation Systems, Safran USA and CFM International, were all named as defendants in the suit. Officials at Southwest, GE Aviation and Boeing declined to comment citing pending litigation. Officials at Safran USA and CFM International did not respond to requests for comment.
Flight 1380 had left New York’s LaGuardia Airport on the morning of April 17, and was headed to Dallas Love Field. About 20 minutes into the flight, one of the Boeing 737’s engines failed and broke apart sending pieces of shrapnel flying through the air. The pieces shattered a window and the change in pressure in the airplane’s cabin caused Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old bank executive from Albuquerque, to be partially pulled out of the plane. The flight diverted to Philadelphia International Airport where it landed without further incident. Riordan died.
In a preliminary report, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said they found evidence of metal fatigue on the fan blade that had broken off the engine. Shortly after the incident the Federal Aviation Administration ordered that airlines complete additional inspections of fan blades on planes with similar engines.
The suit contends that, “Southwest negligently failed to reasonably monitor, inspect, test, service maintain and repair the Aircraft and the Engine to keep its aircraft reasonably safe for its passengers, and to remove from service aircraft that were not reasonably safe.”
The suit comes as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General announced an audit of the FAA’s safety oversight of Southwest Airlines. In making the announcement, the IG’s office noted that recent events, including the April 17 incident, have raised concerns about FAA’s safety oversight program, particularly for Southwest. In addition, the IG’s office said it had received a number of complaints about operational issues at the airline, including allegations of deficiencies in pilot training.