Jennifer Riordan, a New Mexico mother and public relations executive with a long history of volunteerism, was identified as the passenger who died on Southwest Flight 1380 after a harrowing tragedy unfolded when an engine exploded and blew out a window.
She was remembered as a mentor, as a woman devoted to family, as a well-known volunteer, and as a “treasure of our community.”
Riordan was partially sucked out of the plane’s window. KOAT-TV identified the deceased passenger as Riordan, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was 43-years-old and a married mother of two children. Her husband previously worked for the City of Albuquerque.
Passengers have given terrifying accounts of what happened on the Southwest plane flying from New York to Dallas before it made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. You can read various passenger accounts below and see photos and videos of the incident. Authorities revealed that Riordan’s cause of death was “blunt impact trauma to the head, neck and torso” and she was also hit with shrapnel.
One passenger said: “From her waist above, she was outside of the plane.” CNN also reported that Riordan “was sucked into a hole left by a shattered window,” hanging partially outside for several minutes before heroic passengers pulled her back inside. According to KOAT-TV, Riordan “was taken to the hospital but died from her injuries.”
Albuquerque’s mayor, Tim Keller, called Riordan a “thoughtful leader who has long been a part of the fabric of our community.” The New Mexico governor called her “an incredible woman who put her family and community first.”
Riordan was in New York City on a business trip, and she had tweeted about it.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Riordan Was a Vice President of Community Relations at Wells Fargo & Described Herself as ‘Passionate About My Community’
Jennifer Riordan was an accomplished woman who worked for Wells Fargo as a vice president of Community Relations. On LinkedIn, she described herself as “experienced Vice President Community Relations with a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry. Skilled in Crisis Management, Nonprofit Organizations, Crisis Communications, Event Management, and Team Building. Strong community and social services professional with a Bachelor’s degree focused in Communications and PR from The University of New Mexico.”
Riordan was well-known in the local media. “Our newsroom is silent right now as we learn about the passing of Jennifer Riordan. Many of us knew her and her family well. Our story soon,” wrote the managing editor at Albuquerque Business First on Twitter.
“Jennifer has over 25 years of community relations and communications experience and joined Wells Fargo in 2008,” reads a biography for her on the United Way of Central New Mexico website. “She is responsible for reputation management, volunteerism and community involvement and supporting local and regional non-profits though the company’s generous corporate giving program of over $2.3 million (NM, El Paso and Greater TX).”
On Twitter, she described herself as “proud Team Member. Wife, mom of two, baseball fan, wine and coffee lover, passionate about my community.” Annunciation Catholic School, where Riordan’s children attend school, sent out an email confirming her death, according to AbqJournal.com.
“She was in route from New York when her plane experience (sic) trouble,” assistant principal Amy McCarty wrote in the email, the newspaper reported. “At this point, the family needs all the prayers we can offer.”
The United Way site explained that Riordan worked with non-profits in New Mexico and Texas. “Jennifer manages Wells Fargo employee volunteer and board service to non-profits in New Mexico and Greater Texas working with nearly 2,400 employees in addition to representing the company on various boards in the community and oversees the annual United Way Community Support Campaign.”
At Wells Fargo, she explained on LinkedIn, she was “responsible for public relations, internal communications, community involvement and supporting local non-profits though Wells Fargo’s generous corporate giving program of nearly $1 million.”
She continued: “I manage Wells Fargo employee volunteer service to non-profits in New Mexico by nearly 1,700 employees in addition to representing the company on various boards in the community. I plan and direct development and communication of information designed to keep the public and staff informed of Wells Fargo’s accomplishments and points of view. I serve as media spokesperson for Wells Fargo in New Mexico and oversee the annual United Way Community Support Campaign for the state.”
Facebook Live videos and photos from passengers capture the horror inside Southwest Flight 1380 after Riordan was nearly sucked out of the plane. Some passengers reported that they thought they were going to die – and one, Marty Martinez, posted a Facebook Live video that showed his terror – before the airplane managed to land safely. There were also reports from passengers that a passenger suffered a heart attack and that Riordan was hit by shrapnel. Those accounts – unconfirmed by authorities – initially led to confusion about whether the lone person who died on the plane, now identified as Riordan, was the same woman who was partially pulled out of the plane window.
Heroic passengers were able to hold Riordan down for 12 minutes after the force from the window threatened to pull her out. They included farmer Tim McGinty, EMT Andrew Needum, and retired nurse Peggy Phillips. They described the plane dropping suddenly. Many feared it was the end. In one instance of heroism, a witness told CBS News that she saw “a man in a cowboy hat rush to cover the broken window and that the man had a bandage around his arm after the plane landed.” Riordan suffered severe head and facial injuries.
“Thank you. Thank you that she didn’t go flying out the window and we wouldn’t have her. She was much more than a statistic,” Marianne Riordan, the victim’s sister-in-law, told The Boston Herald, addressing the heroes.
According to CNN, the plane “descended from 31,684 feet to about 10,000 feet in a little over five minutes.”
Here are some of the photos that Martinez posted on Facebook.
One photo shows the window broken out.
Another photo showed oxygen masks had tumbled out.
A video showed Martinez with an oxygen mask over his face.
The plane managed to land safely but not before a life was lost.
2. Jennifer Riordan Praised Her Husband, Mike, for Making Her ‘Heart Happy’ & Her Family Describes Her as Its ‘Bedrock’
Jennifer’s heartbroken family released a statement describing her as their “bedrock.”
“Jennifer’s vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country,” her family wrote in a statement. “Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured. But foremost, she is the bedrock of our family. She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other. Her beauty and love is evident through her children. We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support from family friends and our community.”
Riordan had “a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from the University of New Mexico (1999) and an associate’s degree from Champlain College in Vermont (1994),” the United Way says. She also left behind a young family.
“She is a mom of Averie (12) and Joshua (10) and has been married to her husband Michael for 21 years,” says the bio. Riordan wrote on Facebook of her husband, “My love. My life. My gift.” In 2016, she wrote on Facebook, “Thankful for this amazing man on this birthday week. Michael Riordan, you make my heart happy, you are my everything, you make me a better person! Thanks for being you! Happy birthday week! I love you!”
Riordan’s husband was chief operations officer for the City of Albuquerque, where he oversaw “the operation of 11 departments, including animal welfare, aviation, cultural services, environmental health, family and community services and municipal development,” according to Albuquerque Business First.
The newspaper reported that Jennifer Riordan often started her work day at 4 a.m.
A passenger wrote a vivid account on Instagram of what happened on the plane, saying, “Our engine that blew out at 38000 ft. A window blew out, a man saved us all as he jumped to cover the window. Unfortunately we lost a passenger to a heart attack. The pilot, Tammy Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly. God sent his angels to watch over us. I actually heard someone say, there is a God!!”
The passenger clarified on Instagram that she is not certain whether the passenger who had a heart attack was OK or not. “I was in the back of the plane. This passenger was near where the window broke open in mid flight. I continue to hear that. But when I have asked people no one is confirming anything,” she wrote. Jennifer Riordan’s exact cause of death is not yet clear.
The situation was chaotic and depending on where people were seated they have somewhat different accounts of what unfolded.
Martinez also wrote, “Someone on the plane had a heart attack and it looks like an engine blew out then a window was blown open. We are still on the plane and they are trying to revive a woman on the plane.” Luckily, though, the plane was able to land in Philly.
He also shared this video although the quality goes in and out:
His comments are riddled with spelling errors as he typed in full terror. He wrote, “the place is going down!” and “I a freaking out” and “We are3 goingfro caa crash landing!!” and “WE ARE DOING DOWN!!?
3. Riordan Was Appointed by New Mexico’s Governor to Serve as the State’s Commissioner of Volunteer Engagement & Was Called an ‘Extraordinary Woman’
Tributes poured in for Riordan, as she was well-known in the Albuquerque community for helping others. “I can’t believe this… So sad to hear of this news. Jennifer was an extraordinary woman who helped me immensely in my college career through the Wells Fargo Presidential Scholar Program. My condolences to her family and friends,” wrote one man on Twitter.
A woman wrote, “So sad to hear this tragic news. I got to meet and mentor with Jennifer Riordan a few times. She was such an inspirational woman and a treasure of our community. Praying for her family and friends.”
Jennifer Riordan served on numerous boards and in volunteer positions, one appointed by the New Mexico governor. She “currently serves on the boards of Junior Achievement of New Mexico, New Mexico First, The Catholic Foundation and Annunciation Catholic School,” the United Way biography for her reads.
“She was appointed by the Governor of New Mexico to serve as a Commissioner for the State of New Mexico Office of Volunteer Engagement and Board of Trustees for the New Mexico Natural History and Science Museum. She serves on the Living Cities Integration Initiative council working to support entrepreneurs in New México and is a member of PEO Chapter X. She was awarded the Samaritan Counseling Center’s New Mexico Ethics in Business Young Leader Award along with the Hautepreneurs Leader Honor both in 2015.”
On LinkedIn, she stated that she served on the “leadership table” for a group called City Alive that has the mission “to create a healthier and more stable economy, more higher paying jobs and more income that reaches every household in Albuquerque.” She also was a board member for the University of New Mexico Alumni Relations and was chair of the board of directors for Junior Achievement New Mexico which works to “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy,” her page reads.
The engine suffered a catastrophe mid-air and blew out a window in the plane. What happened next is horrific.
According to NBC 10, “the jet violently depressurized when a piece of an engine flew into and broke a window” and “a female passenger was partially sucked out of the plane when the window imploded.” That account came from the father of a passenger. Photos clearly show the imploded window and the damaged engine in the aircraft.
“One passenger, a woman, was partially … was drawn out towards the out of the plane … was pulled back in by other passengers,” a passenger’s father told NBC10. The incident occurred on the morning of April 17, 2018.
Marty Martinez, the passenger who took to Facebook during the flight, wrote with one video, “Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!”
Martinez told CNN, of the female passenger sitting next to the window: “She wasn’t like sucked out of the window or pulled out. But her like arms and her body were sucked, like sucked in that direction, from my vantage point. So you see people, from the back of the seat, holding onto her, you know, trying to keep her contained.”
4. Jennifer Riordan Held a Series of Other Top PR Jobs
Jennifer Riordan’s resume was lengthy and she worked in a variety of top positions over the years. According to LinkedIn, she was VP Community and Public Relations for Citigroup for three years.
“Riordan was vice president of public relations for Citi Cards and state director for community relations for Citi New Mexico. In her role as State Director for Citi New Mexico, she oversaw the corporate giving program for all Citi business in New Mexico including Citi Cards, CitiFinancial and Smith Barney. Additionally, Riordan was responsible for internal, external communications, media relations and the volunteer program at Citi Cards, a 1,200 person customer contact call center,” she wrote.
Riordan also served as media relations manager for UNM Hospital. Among other duties, her responsibilities included, “Head the community relations, media relations, public relations, internal and external communication functions for three colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Medicine and the five hospitals.”
The pilot was named as Tammie Jo Shults, one of the U.S. Navy’s first female fighter pilots. Some people were lauding the crew as heroes on Twitter. Shults, a native of New Mexico, graduated in 1983 from MidAmerica Nazarene University. In March 2017, she was lauded for her career and accomplishments, among them becoming one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy.
Martinez wrote on Instagram, “Engine exploded and shattered one of the windows critically injuring a passenger. Flight attendants ran over calling for passengers to help cover the hole as they broke down and began uncontrollably crying and looking horrified as they looked outside. Plane dropped dramatically and it smelled like fire with ash coming down on everyone thru the vents. Absolutely terrifying. Had to do a crash landing in Philly. I Facebook LIVED the entire experience. I literally thought these were my last moments on earth. It was so terrifying!!”
Cassie Adams, another passenger, wrote on Twitter, that she was on the airplane. “My SW flight from NYC to DAL just blew an engine and the window blew out mid flight. I just saw a human being fly out of a plane 40,000 feet above. I’ve never been more terrified in my life,” she said.
5. Southwest Airlines Changed Its Profile Picture to a Broken Gray Heart
On Twitter, Southwest Airlines changed its profile picture to a shattered gray heart and wrote, “We are deeply saddened to confirm that there is one fatality resulting from this accident. The entire Southwest Airlines Family is devastated and extends its deepest heartfelt sympathy to the customers, employees, family members, and loved ones affected by this tragic event. We have activated our emergency response team and are deploying every resource to support those affected by this tragedy,” wrote the Southwest Airlines statement.”
According to CBS News, the NTSB is looking at metal fatigue in the plane’s engine and “a missing engine fan blade.”
According to USA Today, the plane had “143 passengers and a crew of five onboard.” Southwest Airlines released a brief statement. “We are aware that Southwest Flight 1380 from New York La Guardia to Dallas Love Field has diverted to Philadelphia International Airport,” Southwest said in a statement. “We are in the process of transporting customers and crew into the terminal.”
A brief statement was released:
The Philadelphia airport released a statement that read, “PHL Update 12:35 PM: FAA has issued ground stop for planes on the ground at other airports waiting to depart for PHL. Check flight status with your airline. Flights are departing PHL. Passengers should expect delays.”