April 27, 2018 / 8:09 PM / 25 days ago

Passenger sues Southwest Airlines over fatal engine explosion

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawsuit against Southwest Airlines Co has been filed by a passenger who was flying on last week’s flight 1380, in which an engine exploded and one person was killed.

Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to Philadelphia International Airport after the engine blew apart and shattered a window, killing one passenger, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela

The lawsuit claims that since the accident, the passenger, Lilia Chavez, has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other personal injuries.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Dallas-based Southwest has been under intense scrutiny in the days since a CFM56-7B engine on one of its Boeing 737-700 jets blew apart during an April 17 flight, shattering a plane window and flinging shrapnel.

Passenger Jennifer Riordan, one of 149 people aboard, was killed. The incident has raised concerns about the safety of similar engines.

Regulators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating.

“Our focus remains on working with the NTSB to support their investigation,” Southwest said on Friday. “We can’t comment on any pending litigation. The safety and security of our employees and customers is our highest priority at all times.”

Also named in the Thursday suit are France’s Safran S.A., General Electric Aviation and CFM International, the manufacturers behind the engine that broke apart. CFM is a transatlantic joint-venture co-owned by GE and Safran.

The suit claims that Southwest and the engine makers had “placed profits and business” over passenger safety and continued to operate the engine “even when there was confirmation that an unsafe condition existed.”

A Southwest flight in August 2016 with the same type of CFM56-7B engine made an emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida, after a fan blade separated and debris ripped a hole above the left wing.

After the incident, European regulators gave airlines nine months to check the engines. U.S. regulators were still were considering what to do after proposing some checks.

“Despite knowing of the dangerous condition of the subject aircraft’s engine, the defendants risked the lives of more than a hundred innocent passengers,” including Chavez, the filing reads.

A representative for GE did not return a request for comment. Safran could not immediately be reached.

The incident marked the first fatality on a U.S. commercial passenger airline since 2009.

Southwest shares closed up 0.4 percent. They have lost 18.2 percent year to date.

Reporting by Alana Wise, additional reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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