The hero EMT who tried to save a woman who was killed on board a Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday has spoken out about the ‘terrible’ tragedy but refused to give details of it out of respect for her family.
Andrew Needum, 34, was on board Southwest Airlines flight 1380 with his two children, his wife and his parents. They were on their way home to Texas after a family vacation to New York City where they’d celebrated his parents 39th wedding anniversary.
He was in row seven and Jennifer Riordan was in row 14 when she was sucked out of the window after it was smashed by shrapnel from an exploding engine.
Needum, a trained firefighter, ran back to help her after hearing a ‘commotion’ and after being given an approving ‘look’ from his wife Stephanie, he said on Thursday.
He and Tim McGinty, a farm hand, were able to bring the 43-year-old’s body back into the aircraft. Needum and retired nurse Peggy Phillips then performed CPR until the plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Needum shunned glory and said he was grieving for Riordan’s family on Thursday as he gave a tearful press conference in Texas.
Andrew Needum, 34, spoke for the first time on Thursday since he tried to save Jennifer Riordan’s life on board Southwest Airlines flight 1380
The Wells Fargo executive was wearing her seatbelt when the window smashed but the power of the suction from the 32,000ft atmosphere was too strong and she died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso, it was revealed on Wednesday.
‘We give all the glory to God just being here right now. The ability to speak before you. God put me in this position.
‘There was a family that lost a loved one and I feel for her family, I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that she lived in.
‘I can’t imagine what they’re going through.
‘It was a terrible thing happened and someone lost their life. What took place back there, out of respect for her family, I am going to leave that alone,’
‘It was a terrible thing happened and someone lost their life.
‘What took place back there, out of respect for her family, I am going to leave that alone,’ he said at a press conference on Thursday.
He did give a harrowing, detailed account of the minutes leading up to the woman’s death.
‘We took off from LaGuardia, there were no issues, and we got in the air. Somewhere around 32,000ft, I heard a loud pop, as we all did. The flight attendants were in the aisle.
Needum was with his mother Julie and wife Stephanie at the press conference. They were on board the plane with him when the engine exploded and sent shrapnel through the passenger window next to Riordan who was sitting seven rows behind them. He fought tears as he told of the moments leading up to the emergency and stopped when he got to that point in the story
Needum, a trained firefighter and EMT, rushed to help ranch hand Tim McGinty who was trying to bring Riordan’s body back into the aircraft. He said McGinty was his ‘back up’ on the flight and that he was a ‘big guy’
‘I immediately looked to them and turned back around and the oxygen masks were deployed,’ he said.
Needum was sitting next to his father and his eight-year-old son was by the window.
Jennifer Riordan, 43, died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso. She is pictured with her husband Michael
They all got their masks on and he turned to look at his wife, mother and five-year-old daughter who were sitting directly across the aisle to ensure they too were safe.
Before he went back to help Riordan, he tried to help a young mother who was sitting behind his wife with her six-month-old daughter.
She was struggling to put the baby’s oxygen mask on and Needum wanted to help her.
‘I sat back down and looked across the aisle to my wife after we heard some commotion in the rear of the plane.
‘I looked at my wife, looked in her eyes, and she gave me the approval to go back there,’ he said.
Like McGinty and Phillips, both of whom were hailed heroes for their efforts on board the flight, Needum said he did ‘what anyone else would do.’
‘I felt moved to act and as well as other people on that plane,’ he said.
This harrowing image taken before the plane made its emergency landing shows the state of the exploded engine
‘She made a point of speaking to everyone’: Pilot Tammie Jo Shults spoke to every passenger on the flight after making her emergency landing. She is seen speaking to Timothy Bourman in a picture his wife shared on Thursday
Hero: Shults, 56, is seen getting off the plane after all of the passengers had disembarked. She has been praised for her ‘nerves of steel’ during the catastrophe
He commended pilot Tammie Jo Shults, 56, for her professionalism and skill.
‘Her crew, amazing job. Southwest is a great company and they took really good care of us.
God put us on that plane for a reason. Everybody acted and everybody stayed strong
‘There’s no question in my mind as to who I’ll be flying with again but they really took care of us.
‘God put people on that plane for a reason. Everybody acted and everybody stood strong,’ he said.
Once the plane had landed in Philadelphia, Shults ‘made a point’ of speaking to every single passenger on board to comfort them before they disembarked, Needum’s wife Stephanie said.
She paid special attention to the children, including their five-year-old daughter.
‘She took the time to stop and talk to our daughter and she was very good to her, they had small talk about the oxygen mask which, as a five-year-old was what she was most interested in, and she reassured her that in her 32 years of flying that her oxygen masks had never come down so she told our daughter that she was special to try to make it a positive.
Needum and his wife Stephanie (above together) were in New York City with his parents and their son and daughter for a family vacation. They were on their way home to Texas when the engine exploded on the Southwest Airlines flight
Needum said retired nurse Peggy Phillips (shown above with McGinty once they had landed back in Dallas hours later) was a ‘special lady’
‘She comforted everybody. She did amazing, she is an amazing person,’ Stephanie Needum said.
The couple’s children were ‘shaken’ by the ordeal but are back at school with their friends, they said.
Riordan’s immediate family have been too distraught to speak at length.
On Wednesday, her sister-in-law thanked Needum and McGinty for bringing her back into the aircraft because now they would be able to have closure with a proper burial.
Investigators are still looking into what caused the engine failure.
They have so far been able to determine that a fan blade separated as a result of metal fatigue at the hub and that it may have contributed to the malfunction.
The Boeing 737-700 was tested three days before the flight.
This was the Row 14 seat which Riordan was sitting in when she was sucked towards the window at 32,00ft
Riordan’s window was smashed by shrapnel from the exploding engine which was several rows in front of her and in fact, was directly beside the Needum family in Row 7