Southwest pilots used hand signals to communicate after deadly explosion

The pilots of the Southwest Airlines jet that suffered a midair engine explosion had to use hand signals to communicate because of the deafening roar, they said in a new interview.

The explosion, which happened near Philadelphia on a Dallas-bound flight from LaGuardia Airport, led to part of the engine shattering a window and a passenger being partially sucked out of the plane. Jennifer Riordan, 43, a Wells Fargo banking executive from New Mexico, later died.

Co-pilot Darren Ellisor recalled a chaotic scene where everything suddenly went wrong.

“We were passing through about 32,000 feet when we heard a large bang and a rapid decompression,” Ellisor says in the ABC “20/20” clip. “The aircraft yawed and banked to the left a little over 40 degrees and we had a very severe vibration from the number one engine. There was shaking, everything. And that all kinda happened all at once.”

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults said the trouble reminded her of rough military flights.

“My first thoughts were actually, ‘Oh, here we go’ — just because it seemed like a flashback to some of the Navy flying that we had done,” she said.

And in the panic, the two aviators couldn’t even hear each other as they tried to land the plane – a harrowing ordeal which took 22 minutes from the time the engine blew until they touched down in Philadelphia.

“Darren is just very easy to communicate with and we had to use hand signals because it was loud and it was just hard to communicate for a lot of different reasons,” Shults said.

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