Passenger on deadly Southwest flight files lawsuit over 'mental trauma'

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- One of the passengers on the Southwest flight which made an emergency landing following engine failure has filed a lawsuit against the airline, as well as the makers of the plane and engine.

When the engine exploded, pieces of it blew out a window on the plane, causing a woman to be killed when she was partially sucked out the window.

Lilia Chavez filed suit against Southwest Airlines, GE Aviation, Safran Aircraft Engines and CFM International, a supplier of jet engines, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Thursday.

Chavez alleges in the lawsuit that the companies "unforgivably breached" the trust of passengers who "entrust their lives and safety, to entities such as Southwest and the CFM Defendants."

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Jennifer Riordan, 43, was the first person to die on an American airline in almost 10 years in the April 17 incident. The plane, destined for Dallas, had taken off from LaGuardia International Airport in New York when the engine blew about 20 minutes into the flight. The pilot managed to safely land the plane in Philadelphia.

Chavez was sitting three rows behind where Riordan was partially sucked out the window, the lawsuit says.

"Ms. Chavez witnessed the horror as the force of the depressurization pulled an innocent passenger partially through the shattered window and she watched as passengers risked their lives to pull the passenger back into the aircraft and save her life," the lawsuit says.

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According to Chavez, the cabin became "a whirlwind of airflow and airborne debris which struck Ms. Chavez and obstructed her breathing."

In the filing, Chavez says she "prayed and feared for her life" and she called her children to tell them she loved them and was preparing to die. Once the flight landed, Chavez alleges workers for Southwest did not appropriately care for her and fellow passengers.

Chavez says the incident caused "post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, emotional distress, depression, personal injuries to her body, including the physical manifestations of the emotional and mental trauma she experienced and continues to suffer."
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"[Chavez] seeks recovery for all damages including but not limited to, damages for loss of earnings, financial damages, mental, emotional, and physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of ability to perform and experience the usual activities of life, loss of earning capacity, past and future medical care and expenses together with damages for physical pain and suffering, and emotional anguish, terror and fright."

Chavez has requested a jury trial in the lawsuit.

Southwest sent a statement to ABC News, saying, "Our focus remains on working with the NTSB to support their investigation. We can't comment on any pending litigation. The Safety and security of our Employees and Customers is our highest priority at all times."

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Passenger Matt Tranchin recalls emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport during Action News at Noon on April 17, 2018.

In a letter to passengers obtained by ABC News, the airline offered sincere apologies as well as a $5,000 check and the promise of a $1,000 travel voucher.

NTSB investigators are looking into the accident in Washington, D.C., and expect to announce a probable cause and more safety recommendations in 12 to 15 months. Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults, a former Navy fighter pilot, was called a "true American hero" by one passenger for being able to safely land the crippled plane.

Meanwhile, airlines are under an order to inspect engines like the one that failed on Flight 1380 by May 10.
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