Passenger sues Southwest Airlines over fatal engine failure

Southwest Airlines flight makes emergency landing in Philadelphia
@NTSB_Newsroom/Twitter via CNN
NTSB inspectors look over the engine on the Boeing 737-700.

A passenger aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 has filed a lawsuit against the company calling for compensatory and punitive damages following the fatal engine failure earlier this month.

Lilia Chavez, a passenger from California, was seated three rows behind Jennifer Riordan, the woman who died as a result of the incident that led to an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

The jet’s engine failed April 17 about 20 minutes into the flight from New York to Dallas. Debris from the engine broke open a window, causing Riordan to almost get sucked out of the plane.

Riordan was pulled back into the plane but died at a hospital in Philadelphia. It was Southwest’s first passenger death and the first death on a US airline in more than nine years.

Chavez claims in her lawsuit that she continues to suffer severe personal injuries including “post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, emotional distress, depression and personal injuries to her body” as a result of the incident.

Chavez’s lawsuit states Southwest and the manufacturer of the plane engine showed disregard in ensuring the safety of passengers because instead of warning passengers or removing the “dangerous engine,” Southwest “continued to operate commercial air carrier services despite knowing that its Boeing 737-300 aircraft … were operating with an unresolved and undisclosed unsafe condition.”

The Southwest plane in the April 17 incident was a Boeing 737-700.

Southwest Airlines told CNN Saturday its focus was to work with the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating the incident.

“We can’t comment on any pending litigation,” the statement said. “The safety and security of our employees and customers is our highest priority at all times.”

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told him the airline will begin an “aggressive ultrasonic inspection campaign” for its entire fleet. That covers more than 700 737s, including more than 500 737-700s.