Latest: Woman killed in Southwest plane incident died of 'blunt impact trauma' to her head

Update 11.55pm: A woman killed when she was partially blown out of a Southwest Airlines plane died of blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso, Philadelphia's medical examiner said.

Spokesman James Garrow of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said that Jennifer Riordan's death was ruled accidental.

Ms Riordan was killed and seven others were injured after the twin-engine 737 blew an engine at 30,000 feet on Tuesday and got hit by shrapnel.

Federal investigators are still trying to figure out how the window came out of the plane. National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said that the woman was wearing a seatbelt and sitting next to the window.

Jennifer Riordan pictured with her husband Michael. Pic via Facebook.

Earlier: A woman has died after a US passenger plane blew an engine at 32,000ft and got hit by shrapnel that smashed a window.

The incident sparked a desperate scramble by passengers to save the woman from getting sucked out of the plane by the sudden decompression, but she later died and seven others were injured.

The pilots of the Southwest Airlines plane, a twin-engined Boeing 737 flying from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, took it into a rapid descent and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia as passengers using oxygen masks said their prayers and braced for impact.

The dead woman was identified as Jennifer Riordan, a bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez said the hearts of all New Mexicans were with Ms Riordan's family.

She was the first passenger killed in an accident involving a US airline since 2009.

Jennifer Riordan. Pic: AP.

Riordan, the wife of former City of Albuquerque Chief Operations Officer Michael, was the vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo bank in New Mexico, and had been on a business trip for the bank at the time of the explosion.

Her devastated family released a statement paying tribute to her.

They said: "Jennifer's vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country. Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured. But foremost, she is the bedrock of our family.

She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other. Her beauty and love is evident though her children.

'We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support from family, friends and our community. We do ask that those who seek to express their condolences and prayers, as well as the media outlets, respect our privacy at this time. Our family and friends need this time to both grieve and celebrate Jennifer's impact on us all.

"In her memory, please remember to always be kind, loving, caring and sharing."

The National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary examination of the blown engine from Flight 1380 showed evidence of "metal fatigue".

In a news conference, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said one of the engine's fan blades was separated and missing. The blade was separated at the point where it would come into the hub and there was evidence of metal fatigue.

As a precaution, Southwest said it will inspect similar engines in its fleet over the next 30 days.

Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window and a chunk gone from the left engine, including part of its cover.

Mr Sumwalt said part of the engine covering was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia.

A transcript of the conversation between the pilots and officials on the ground shows one of the pilots asking for emergency services to ready for the landing.

The full audio exchange can be heard below.

From around 5.45 mins, the following exchange takes place:

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults says: "OK, could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well, we've got injured passengers."

Asked if the plane was physically on ​fire, she said: "Not on fire but part of it is missing. They said there's a hole and someone went out."

Ground staff reply: "I'm sorry - you said there was a hole and somebody went out?..... It doesn't matter; we'll work it out there. The airport is off to your right there..." and the parties then bring the plane in.

Passengers commended Ms Shults, a former US Navy fighter pilot, for her cool-headed handling of the emergency. She walked down the aisle and talked to passengers to make sure they were OK after the plane touched down.

"She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her," said Alfred Tumlinson, of Texas. "I'm going to send her a Christmas card, I'm going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome."

Amanda Bourman, of New York, said she was asleep near the back of the plane when she heard a loud noise and oxygen masks dropped.

"Everybody was crying and upset," she said. "You had a few passengers that were very strong, and they kept yelling to people, you know, 'It's OK! We're going to do this!'"

Mr Tumlinson said a man in a cowboy hat rushed forward a few rows "to grab that lady to pull her back in. She was out of the plane. He couldn't do it by himself, so another gentleman came over and helped to get her back in the plane, and they got her".

Eric Zilbert, from California, said: "From her waist above, she was outside of the plane."

Passengers struggled to plug the hole while giving the badly injured woman CPR.

- Digital Desk and Press Association

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