Passengers fail to wear oxygen masks properly aboard emergency Southwest flight

Helen Zhao

At least a few passengers aboard Southwest Flight 1380, which had to make an emergency landing on Tuesday after suffering engine failure, didn't pay close attention to the safety demonstration prior to take off.

A photo of passengers wearing their oxygen masks improperly circulated on social media in the aftermath of the incident. The masks covered only their mouths, whereas safety demonstrations instruct passengers to cover their nose and mouth.

The masks provide oxygen to passengers in emergencies up to 40,000 feet, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. When cabin pressure drops in a plane, passengers need the masks in order to receive a sufficient flow of oxygen. The masks prevent hypoxia, when the body lacks enough oxygen to maintain normal physiological function.

One woman was killed after the plane en route from New York to Dallas blew an engine and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia, Southwest said on Tuesday. It marked the first fatal U.S. commercial plane accident since 2009.

The victim was Jennifer Riordan, a New Mexico resident and mother of two, who served as vice president for community relations at Wells Fargo in Albuquerque, according to her LinkedIn profile. She managed employee volunteer service to nonprofit groups.

Riordan died in the hospital after she was reportedly almost sucked out of a shattered window before fellow passengers pulled her back in.

The passenger's death breaks a nearly decade-long stretch without a fatality aboard a commercial airplane in the U.S., said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant based in Long Island, New York. Southwest said it was the first on-board passenger fatality due to an accident in its history.

The aircraft involved in Tuesday's incident, a Boeing 737-700, had 144 passengers and five crew members on board, according to Southwest.