President Donald Trump welcomed hero pilot Tammie Jo Shults and other crew members and passengers from Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 to the Oval Office Tuesday, recognizing the work of those in the cabin and the cockpit following catastrophic engine failure.
“The actions of the crew and passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 show the great character of our nation,” Trump said at his desk.
After the Dallas-bound flight left New York’s LaGuardia airport on April 17, a fan blade in the left engine broke midair, sending the titanium alloy blade toward the body of the plane. The object burst through the plane’s window, sucking a passenger toward the hole where the window used to be.
Passengers Andrew Needum, a firefighter, and Tim McGinty, who works in farm and ranch real estate, rushed toward row 14, working together to pull the passenger, Jennifer Riordan, back in from the broken window as the plane began to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, witnesses said. Needum and another passenger, retired nurse Peggy Phillips, began performing CPR. Riordan later died at a Philadelphia hospital.
“Our hearts break for the family of the passenger who tragically lost her life, Jennifer Riordan. We send our prayers to Jennifer’s husband and their two beautiful young children,” Trump said, adding, “She must’ve been a fantastic woman.”
McGinty, Needum and Phillips were in attendance at the White House Tuesday, praised by the President for their “tremendous bravery.”
“I’m trained for emergency situations and that’s just exactly what it was, and I felt moved to act as well as other people on that plane,” Needum said at a news conference last month.
“God created a servant heart in me, and I felt a calling to get up and do something,” he added.
Captain Shults has been widely regarded as a hero for her calm handling of the emergency landing. Passengers said that Shults walked through the aisle and talked with them to make sure they were all right.
Trump touted the pilot’s work in safely landing the damaged plane.
“Captain Shults, I especially want to commend you for your lifesaving actions. … I understand you were one of the first women ever to fly tactical aircraft in the United States Navy. You drew from years of training and safety and you knew how to land that plane. We salute you and every member of this crew,” he said.
The former Navy fighter pilot has kept a low profile, eschewing media requests but issuing a statement alongside first officer Darren Ellisor, who was also in attendance Tuesday.
“We all feel we were simply doing our jobs,” Shults and Ellisor said in a statement posted on the airline’s social media pages. “Our hearts are heavy. On behalf of the entire crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family’s profound loss.”
Flight attendants Rachel Fernheimer, Seanique Mallory and Kathryn Sandoval were also honored in the Oval Office.
“You were a little bit nervous up there?” the President asked the flight attendants.
“Not at all,” they responded, shaking their heads.
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Madison Park, Barbara Starr, Brian Todd, Carma Hassan, Marilia Brocchetto, Paul P. Murphy and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.