A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that set off a terrifying chain of events showed evidence of "metal fatigue," according to the National Transportation Safety Board. (Photo via NTSB)
DALLAS - A passenger who witnessed a woman get sucked out of a Southwest Airlines plane is now suing the Dallas-based airline.
Zachary Coleman was on board Flight 1380 from Dallas to New York when one of the aircraft’s twin engines exploded at 3,200 feet.
Debris from the impact shattered a window on the plane and partially sucked Jennifer Riordan out of the aircraft, prompting passengers to rush to rescue her. They were unable to save her.
The lawsuit says Southwest and the company that manufactured the engine should have known the engine was dangerous and taken the plane out of service long before the deadly incident.
According to the lawsuit, Coleman was sitting about eight rows behind Riordan and “witnessed the horror.”
“The engine failure and breach of the window caused severe vibrations and caused the cabin environment to become a whirlwind of airflow and airborne debris which struck Mr. Coleman and obstructed his breathing,” the lawsuit states. “This environment exacerbated Mr. Coleman’s panic and horror and in the midst of the violent conditions within the cabin, he prayed and feared for his life. He heard other passengers using their cellphones to reach out to loved ones to say their final goodbyes and he thought he was going to die.”
“When we got on the phone, we hear our child crying ‘they tried to pull her back in the window! They tried to pull her back!’” said Monica Coleman, Zachary’s mother. “He's having the nightmares that doesn't go away.”
Southwest is not commenting on the lawsuit since the case is pending.
Zachary Coleman was not available for comment, either. His parents say that the former Woodrow Wilson basketball star is now working on his masters and coaching in New York City. While he did fly back to New York on a different airline, he is now afraid to fly back to Dallas.
“His life is just beginning. Thank God he's not gone,” Monica said. “That should never ever happen.”
The suit claims Coleman has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other “severe personal injuries” because of the flight. He’s seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.
NTSB investigators determined a fan blade in the engine failed and broke apart, but their investigation is not complete. The board will hold an investigative hearing in November to focus on the engine blade design and inspection methods.