Ex-safety investigator says incident is 'extremely rare' - Albuquerque Journal

Ex-safety investigator says incident is ‘extremely rare’

Front page from Nov. 5, 1973. Man was sucked out of plane in New Mexico.

Many were horrified on Tuesday upon learning an Albuquerque woman was killed after being partially pulled out of a plane when a nearby window was smashed by debris from an exploding engine.

“Two words: extremely rare,” said Alan Diehl, a former air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Air Force, of incidents involving passengers being pulled from planes in flight.

But on Nov. 3, 1973, a similar scenario unfolded on a flight over southwest New Mexico heading from Houston to Las Vegas, Nev.

Then, a Texas man died after he was pulled entirely from the plane when an engine on a National Airlines DC-10 flight blew up. G.F. Gardner, 47, of Beaumont, Texas, was pulled from the plane at 40,000 feet over an area near Magdalena.

His skeletal remains were found two years later during construction of the Very Large Array radio telescope near Socorro.

“That engine literally fell apart,” passenger David Drucker told the Journal in a Nov. 5, 1973, article.

The plane made an emergency landing at the Albuquerque airport, and 24 of the 127 surviving passengers and crew members were treated for smoke inhalation, ear problems and minor abrasions, according to the 1975 accident report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Passengers said they attempted to pull Gardner back inside the aircraft but were unable to do so.

He was wearing a seat belt, but the report stated there were around eight inches of slack in the belt.

“Efforts to pull the passenger back into the airplane by another passenger were unsuccessful, and the occupant of seat 17H was subsequently forced entirely through the cabin window,” the report stated.

The report determined that the engine’s fan blades had contacted the fan case during flight, causing the disintegration of the engine.

NTSB investigators say Jennifer Riordan, the Albuquerque banking executive killed in Tuesday’s accident, was wearing a seatbelt, but was still pulled halfway through the opening left by the broken window, where she remained for “several minutes” until a man was able to pull her back inside.

The Associated Press reported Philadelphia’s medical examiner said Riordan died from blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso.

“When you’re talking about those kinds of speeds, the human body is just not capable,” Diehl said. “It’s what the flailing into the structure can do to the body.”

Preliminary results by the NTSB have indicated that one of the fan blades on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 that snapped off midflight showed signs of metal fatigue.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
DA removed from homicide case
ABQnews Seeker
FARMINGTON – A New ... FARMINGTON – A New Mexico judge has ruled that a district attorney's office must be replaced ...
2
Rio Rancho snowboarder dies at Sipapu
ABQnews Seeker
A 28-year-old snowboarder from Rio Rancho ... A 28-year-old snowboarder from Rio Rancho died Saturday at Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort, according ...
3
Lobos must toughen up mentally for rivalry with Aggies
ABQnews Seeker
The UNM Lobos have work to ... The UNM Lobos have work to do before being ready for a tough road environment like they'll see Tuesday against the NMSU Aggies.
4
Navajo Nation adds 23 more COVID cases
ABQnews Seeker
Reservation has had a total of ... Reservation has had a total of 1,540 deaths
5
Automatic recounts scheduled for close races
ABQnews Seeker
School board, council contests, ballot question ... School board, council contests, ballot question qualify for new tallies
6
What the heck is going on at Paseo and ...
ABQnews Seeker
New configuration for bike lane confuses ... New configuration for bike lane confuses many
7
Citywide heat map released
ABQnews Seeker
July temperatures nearly 17 degrees higher ... July temperatures nearly 17 degrees higher in some areas
8
Omicron cases rise as nations rush to learn more ...
ABQnews Seeker
Scientists urge caution even as countries ... Scientists urge caution even as countries shut borders
9
Fatal crashes make up the bulk behind $2.5M settlement
ABQnews Seeker
Payments from city were made to ... Payments from city were made to settle 22 cases during a six-month period