Chesapeake native, fellow crew members explain terrifying moments aboard Southwest flight that killed woman

Posted at 11:47 AM, May 23, 2018

The crew members of the Southwest Airlines flight that lost an engine appeared on CBS This Morning in their first joint interview.  The crew spoke of their experience landing the plane safely in Philadelphia last month after a passenger was partially sucked out a window . Kenneth Craig has the story.

Rachel Fernheimer

The crew of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 said in their interview that when one of the plane's engines exploded midair, they were not afraid.

The explosion sent debris smashing through one of the plane's windows and Captain Tammi Jo Shuts and first officer Darren Ellisor managed to safely land at Philadelphia International Airport on April 17th with just one engine.

Shuts is a Navy veteran and she credited her military experience for her quick and calm reaction.

"I have been in cockpits where the dynamics of the flight are not normal hard to see or read the instrumentation that certainly helped me keep my calm when this explosion happened," Shuts said on CBS This Morning.

As the cabin lost pressure, passengers grabbed oxygen masks while the flight attendants tried to comfort them.

Chesapeake native, Rachel Fernheimer is a Southwest Flight Attendant and was on flight 1380 when this incident happened.

"We went row by row making sure they had their oxygen masks were on, and we just grabbed their hands looked them in the eyes and said you're going to be okay, you're going to make it," Fernheimer said.

At her home in Great Bridge home in Chesapeake, Fernheimer shared with News 3 that her only concern was making sure all of her passengers were safe and calm.

"Truthfully I was only thinking about them. I was the one who was walking and talking to every single passenger in every row. I grabbed their hands and asked if they were okay, if they needed something," shared Fernheimer.

It wasn't until after the plane had landed in Philadelphia did she begin to think about herself and her own family.

"I remember grabbing my phone and calling my parents. My dad answered and I could hear my nieces and nephews in the back playing and just saying am I on speaker? He took me off speaker phone and I said, I want to let you know that I am okay, I have been in an accident. I can't really talk about it right now, your going to see it on the news but just know that I am okay," explained Fernheimer. "I could hear the sinking in his voice and the worry. Then I tell my mom the same thing. Once I was able to do that and tell my family I was able okay, I started to consume what had happened."

Fernheimer has been a flight attendant with Southwest for two years. Even after this experience, she says it's job the best in the world. She plans to return to the skies once she has fully processed what she experienced.

"I’ll get out there eventually. I am going to take some time to heal myself and to process the whole trauma, but I’ll be up in the friendly skies again I really will."

FULL COVERAGE: Southwest 1380 Emergency

The crew shared their thoughts about Jennifer Riordan, the one passenger who was killed in the incident. She was partially sucked out of the plane and later died.

A preliminary investigation determined a fatigued engine blade caused the engine to tear apart.

That April day was the first time the crew had ever flown together, but they say they had bonded quickly that morning before the flight, discussing family and prayer groups.