Southwest passengers recall terror of flight 1380

Southwest passenger who was sitting next to woman when she was partially sucked out of window describes how she threw off her oxygen mask to try to save her while the plane ‘rolled’ as others describe the ‘terror’ on board

  • Hollie Mackey was in the same row as Jennifer Riordan on flight 1380 on April 17
  • There was a young girl sitting in between them and Mackey was in the aisle seat
  • When Riordan was partially sucked out, Mackey reached over to try to save her
  • The plane suddenly rolled on its side and she thought they were going to die 
  • Mackey spoke out along with several other passengers who were on the plane in an interview which will air Friday night 
  • All credited pilots Tammie-Jo Shults and Darren Ellisor with saving their lives
  • Shults, 56, admitted praying ‘constantly’ as she made an emergency landing 
  • She and Ellisor, 44, both flew in the military and had met just a day beforehand  

The Southwest Airlines passenger who was sitting next to a woman when she was partially sucked out of the window at 32,000ft has described how she tried to save her even as the plane rolled to one side and she thought they were going to die.

Hollie Mackey was sitting in the aisle seat of row 14 when Jennifer Riordan, 43, was partially sucked out of the window in a sudden rush of depressurization after an engine explosion on board flight 1380 on April 17. 

There was a young girl sitting in between the two women. 

Now, Mackey has told how she threw off her own oxygen mask to try to pull Riordan back in to the aircraft.

Speaking to ABC’s 20/20 in an interview which will air on Friday night, Mackey described what she saw when she looked over at Riordan’s seat. 

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Southwest Airlines passenger Hollie Mackey describes how she tried to pull Jennifer Riordan back into the aircraft after looking over to see her upper body partially sucked out of the window on April 17 

The plane was already in chaos after the engine explosion which caused a loud, frightening bang and triggered the oxygen mask to fall.

‘From about her rib cage, the bottom part of her rib cage up, was out the window.

Jennifer Riordan’s body was sucked out ‘from the ribcage up’. By the time she was pulled back in, she had died as a result of her injuries 

‘I had leaned over to try to pull Jennifer in and the plane had rolled and that was my four seconds of terror.

‘We were going towards the open window and really I thought, “well, we are going to go down,”” she said.

Mackey could not pull her in alone because of the strength of the wind that was sucking her out. 

Farm hand Tim McGinty and EMT Andrew Needum rushed over to help her. By the time they were able to bring Riordan, 43, back into the aircraft, she had died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso. 

McGinty told ABC that he did not know it at the time. 

‘I think so,’ he said, when asked if she’d already ‘gone’. ‘You didn’t know at the time,’ he added. 

The pair are just two of numerous passengers, flight attendants, pilots and others who were involved in the catastrophe and who spoke to ABC for the special.  

Nurse Peggy Phillips, who tried to resuscitate Riordan with CPR, also took part as did Marty Martinez, a passenger who started a Facebook live video as the plane was going down. 

Riordan was in seat 14A and Mackey was in 14C. She tried to pull her back in to the aircraft as the oxygen masks dangled around them but she was not strong enough 

Mackey threw off her own oxygen mask and reached over the little girl sitting in between her and Riordan to try to save her. The plane suddenly rolled and, she said, she thought they were all going to die 

Ranch hand Tim McGinty rushed over to help pull Riordan’s body back into the aircraft. In his interview, he became emotional as he said he now knew she was already dead  

Marty Martinez (left) said he credited the pilots with saving his life. Fellow passenger Matt Tranchin (right) described the ordeal as ‘terrifying’ 

Nurse Peggy Phillips performed CPR on Riordan on the plane along with EMT Andrew Needum 

He described the chaos on board when the oxygen masks dropped and began swinging ‘violently’.

Almost immediately I felt the rush of wind and all the while you have the oxygen masks that are dangling in the air and now they’re waving violently in the air,’ he said. 

Matt Tranchin, another passenger, said it was ‘terrifying’. He spent what he thought were his final minutes trying to tell his pregnant wife, who was not on the plane, how much he loved her. 

One person who had not yet spoken out was Air Traffic Controller Cory Davids. 

His is the voice heard on an the audio recording of pilot Tammie-Jo Shults’ remarkably composed call to the ground after the accident. 

The engine explosion was the first sign of catastrophe for the pilots. They immediately diverted to Philadelphia when they realized it had blown out but were unaware of what had happened with Riordan until they were almost on the ground 

Cory Davids is the air traffic controller who spoke to pilot Tammie-Jo Shults while she was still in the air. He said that her ‘nerves of steel’ made him calm and allowed him to do his job

Davids said the 56-year-old’s calmness made it easier for him to do his job too. 

‘She was so calm. Nerves of steel. It almost brought a calm demeanor to us too, you know, as the atc because usually when someone declares something as serious as this, you can tell in their voice, the strain of their voice, that something is really wrong. 

‘With her, it was just another day in the office,’ he said. 

Shults and her co-pilot Darren Ellisor, 44, also took part in the interview. They have been credited by all on board with saving their lives but they have shunned glory. 

Both are former military pilots. Shults was one of the first female pilots in the US Navy and Ellisor served in the US Air Force.

While neither say they were afraid they might not make it, Shults admitted that she was ‘constantly’ praying as she made her emergency landing.

Tammie-Jo Shults and her co-pilot Darren Ellisor are both former military flyers. They said their training kicked in and took over and that that is what allowed them to fly the plane to safety 

Shults was one of the first women to fly for the Navy. She is seen, left, in 1992. Ellisor flew for the US Air Force

She was not meant to have flown the plane that day but traded routes with her husband Dean so that she could make it home to Texas for their 18-year-old son’s track meet.

Despite being universally hailed as heroes, Shults said their handling of the incident was standard procedure given their backgrounds. 

‘In the Navy we have a saying – whatever it takes.’ 

She admitted that what happened was ‘radical’ but their training kicked in and took over.

‘You just realize, obviously, we’re at the front end of the aircraft, so we’re in charge.

Friday’s interview is the first time the pair have spoken about the incident. They stayed away from the public eye in the days afterwards out of respect for Riordan’s family, they said

‘I don’t remember anything other than starting to think through what the plan is. And it worked well,’ she said.

Neither of them knew that someone had been injured until they were almost on the ground. 

They were reluctant to speak about Riordan, answering only ‘yes’ when asked if the discovery that she was so gravely hurt felt like a ‘kick in the stomach’. 

Neither of the pair spoke out in the days after the incident. In their interview, they said they did not want to be visible out of respect for the woman’s family.

Shults and Ellisor had only made a day or two before they found themselves together in the cockpit of the Boeing 737-700.  

Ellisor was at the controls when the engine blew out and he started the descent as Shults spoke to ATC. 

They switched over for her to land the plane at Philadelphia. 

Their interview will air on full on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday May 11 at 10pm EST.  

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