Montana native tried to save passenger sucked out of Southwest flight

Posted at 6:39 AM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 08:39:46-04

BILLINGS – A former Montana woman lived through the nightmare of Southwest Flight 1380 Tuesday and played a key role the horrific story.

Hollie Mackey was sitting next to the woman who died from injuries when one of the jet engines exploded, blowing out one of the plane’s windows.

She was the person who held onto the victim, Jennifer Riorden, and tried to keep her in the plane. 

"When I saw Jennifer…I had leaned over and grabbed on to her belt loops and her waist and wrapped my arm around her waist and tried to pull. And the little girl next to me also tried to pull with me, and we tried to pull her back in, and we couldn’t. We were not strong enough. All we could do was stay calm because if we didn’t then there would be even more panic in the plane," Mackey, a former Miles City resident, said.

Riorden of Albuquerque, N.M. died of blunt force trauma after she was partially sucked out of a window that shattered after an engine exploded on a flight from New York City to Dallas. 

Mackey was sitting in the same row as Riorden, with the little girl in the middle.

Federal investigators say an engine fan blade broke mid-flight, which caused the plane to drop thousands of feet in seconds. The plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Riorden was the only fatality, and seven others were injured.

Thirty minutes into the flight, the passenger heard a loud boom then oxygen masks dropped from above.

"So I had clicked my seat belt back on and I was going to get something out of my bag. And then there was a big boom, and we were all very confused for a second. Just at the same time, there was a boom and this cold air and this sucking sound. We were all just looking around. We didn’t know what was going on," she said.

"In that moment, we really just made some pretty tough decisions. It was really excellent teamwork between all of them to try to get Jennifer back in safe and keep everybody else safe at the same time," Mackey said.

Mackey said she was impressed with the reactions of everyone, from passengers to crew to pilot.

The pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, is a former fighter pilot whom many are crediting for landing the plane with the blown engine.

Mackey said the pilot came back to see passengers after she landed, gave them hugs and thanked them for how all handled the situation.