On Southwest flight, a firefighter heard loud pop — then sprang into action

It was just before 10:30 a.m. Tuesday when Andrew Needum, a firefighter from outside of Dallas, boarded Southwest Flight 1380 with his wife, their two young children, and his parents.

They were going back home to Texas after their first-ever trip to New York City, where Needum's parents were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary, and where he got to meet local firefighters and visit the 9/11 Memorial and the New York City Fire Museum.

He had no clue that his training would come into play on the flight back.

Needum, 34, is credited as one of the brave passengers who sprung into action to help a woman who was partially sucked out of the plane's window after an engine exploded after takeoff. She died from her injuries as the chaos unfolded some 30,000 feet in the air, forcing an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Photos of the damage: 

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Southwest plane makes emergency landing in Philly after engine incident
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Southwest plane makes emergency landing in Philly after engine incident

A Southwest Airlines flight heading from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday after experiencing engine issues.

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez

Marty Martinez, a passenger on Flight 1380, took to social media after the incident to share photos of the severe damage sustained by the aircraft, which included a damaged left engine and one blown-out window. 

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez

A photo of the plane's damaged engine.

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A U.S. NTSB investigator is on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. NTSB photo shows parts of the engine cowling from the Southwest Airlines plane which blew its engine in mid air yesterday over the skies of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., in this image released on April 18, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB photo shows a part of the engine cowling from the Southwest Airlines plane which blew its engine in mid air yesterday over the skies of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., in this image released on April 18, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
@SouthwestAir These are the hero’s of SWA 1380 NYC to Dallas We lost an engine mid-flight and they guided back to P… https://t.co/0fsymQo9lU
@SouthwestAir I want to thank the crew of SWA 1380 for a great job getting us to the ground safely after losing in… https://t.co/C03wL1SYtJ
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Tammie Jo Shults, who is currently a Southwest Airlines pilot, poses in front of a Navy F/A-18A in this 1992 photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., April 18, 2018. Thomas P. Milne/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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"I'm no different than any other firefighter in this country," Needum told reporters Thursday from the Celina, Texas, fire station where he works. "For some reason, it was me that day."

Out of respect, Needum declined to discuss exactly what he witnessed while trying to save the victim — Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo executive from New Mexico.

But he praised two other passengers — real estate agent Tim McGinty and retired nurse Peggy Phillips — who helped pull Riordan back inside the plane and then perform CPR.

The blown engine sent shrapnel through the fuselage and into the window where passengers say Riordan was sitting.

Before the pandemonium erupted, Needum recalled how everything was normal. Flight attendants were taking drink orders. He was seated in Row 8, with his 8-year-old son and his father, Tommy. On the other side of the aisle was his wife, Stephanie, their 5-year-old daughter, and his mother, Julie.

The takeoff was smooth, but about 20 minutes into the flight, Needum said he heard a loud pop. He looked over to his family and oxygen masks dropped from above.

As they pulled them over their faces, Needum said he noticed a mother with a baby on her lap, and helped to secure their masks.

But then, a greater emergency unfolded just behind him: A passenger in Row 14 was in a life or death struggle.

He said he looked over to his wife, who immediately knew what he wanted to do — go back there and help.

No matter the danger around him, he wasn't going to sit idly by, he said, and went to help the woman.

"I never was in fear of my life," he said.

"I'm very proud of him," his wife, Stephanie, added. "This was a calling that he had, and he did amazing."

Needum said he was in awe of how Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot, managed to safely secure the hobbled jet during the emergency landing. Afterward, he said, Shults took a moment to individually speak with rattled passengers.

"She took the time to stop and talk to our daughter," Stephanie Needum said. "She was very good to her. They had small talk about the oxygen mask, which, as a 5-year-old, that's what she was most interested in."

Shults "comforted everybody," she added. "She's an amazing person."

Andrew Needum said he had confidence in Southwest despite the accident, and the family — still unnerved by the experience — decided to fly with the airline back to Texas.

The family is still dealing with the trauma of the event. Needum said his children don't want to sit near the window of an airplane. He still thinks of Riordan and prays for her family.

"We're still healing," he said. "This isn't over ... but we know we're not alone."

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