A recent report by a Dutch research firm revealed that 2017 was the safest year for commercial passengers on record, as zero fatalities were reported. A female passenger who recently was aboard a Southwest Airlines flight when an engine exploded is bringing a civil action claiming she has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Lilia Chavez filed the claim in a Philadelphia court against Southwest and CFM International, the engine manufacturer. She was seated approximately three seats behind Jennifer Riordan, another passenger who was killed after being pulled through a broken window on the plane after a piece of the engine struck it.
The flight originated from LaGuardia Airport in New York and was destined for Love Field in Dallas. Tracking information showed that the plane abruptly changed course toward the Philadelphia airport while passing the southern part of New York. Approximately 20 minutes into the flight, one of the aircraft's engines burst and parts from it struck and shattered a window in the cabin. The damaged window broke the pressure within the passenger cabin and Riordan was being sucked out of the window as passengers attempted to pull her back. Federal authorities are investigating the cause of this mechanical failure aboard the Boeing 737.
Chavez's claim seeks monetary and punitive damages stemming from the severe anxiety and PTSD that she has incurred. She alleges that the airline demonstrated recklessness and disregarded passenger safety. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, as they are intended solely in cases of particularly reckless behavior or intentional acts. Southwest has since issued passengers $5,000 checks and $1,000 vouchers for travel aboard future flights. The other named defendant, CFM International, is a division of the General Electric Company that builds engines.
Riordan, from New Mexico, was a mother of two children and worked in community relations for a bank. Her husband Michael had recently left a position as a chief officer with the City of Albuquerque. The New Mexico Broadcasters Association expressed their condolences and stated that Riordan had graduated from the University of New Mexico. A spokesperson for Southwest explained they are supporting the investigation and that the “safety and security of employees and customers” are their first priority.
USA Today recently explained that many aviation accidents, such as this Southwest incident, are the result of faulty parts. Errors by pilots do occur, particularly during takeoffs, landings, and sometimes in cases of inclement weather. Despite significant enhancements in automated aircraft operation, piloting a plane requires specific skills and expertise, as even a minor mishap can lead to very tragic results.
When a plane crash occurs, the likelihood of severe injuries and fatalities is great. Even when plane accident injuries are not fatal, the types of injuries incurred tend to be catastrophic. Some of the common types of injuries that result include:
- Severe head injuries such as traumatic brain injuries
- Those that damage the neck or back
- Severe cuts and/or burn injuries