WILLISTON, Vt. (AP/WHDH) — Family members are mourning a Vermont native and mother of two who died Tuesday on a Southwest Airlines flight.
Marianne Riordan recalled her 43-year-old sister-in-law, Jennifer Riordan, as a “vivacious” person who had an “aura and a positive karma about her.”
Jennifer Riordan died on a flight heading from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
“Jennifer would be the first to thank her for saving all those lives,” Marianne told 7News as she spoke about the flight’s pilot, who is being called a hero for her handling of the situation.
When the engine blew, it caused the plane to abruptly bank an alarming 41 degrees to the left, and the aircraft began to vibrate, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday. Inside the cockpit, pilot Tammie Jo Shults calmly communicated the severity of the situation.
The engine exploded and shrapnel hit the plane. Passengers say Riordan was partially sucked out of a window that was damaged by debris.
The passenger next to Riordan, Hollie Mackey, spoke out about the incident, “I immediately jumped over to try to help Jennifer, and the girl next to me did a well, and we just weren’t strong enough… the sound was so loud that nobody could hear.”
She said that people sitting in the row behind them tried to get the attention of the flight attendants. Mackey also feared for the other passengers sitting near her, including a young girl.
“I was afraid that if I unbuckled, the child she was so small, that she would get sucked over.”
Amid the chaos, Mackey said she tried her best to comfort Riordan, “I put my hand on the small of Jennifer’s back so she wasn’t alone, but she wouldn’t have heard us talking to her.”
Passengers praised pilot Shults for her professionalism during the emergency.
School officials have confirmed Riordan attended a Catholic elementary school in Burlington and graduated from Colchester High School.
WCAX-TV reports Riordan graduated from Champlain College before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she worked as a bank executive.
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