Jennifer Riordan's family release statement after mum-of-two died in engine explosion at 32,000ft

Jennifer Riordan's family release statement after mum-of-two died in engine explosion at 32,000ft

THE family of a woman who died after an engine exploded on a Southwest Airlines flight in the US have released a statement.

Jennifer Riordan, 43, a mum-of-two from Alberquerqe in New Mexico, was returning from a business trip aboard the New York to Dallas flight when the jet's left engine exploded and destroyed the window next to her seat on Tuesday.

The Wells Fargo executive died from severe head injuries after passengers scrambled to drag her back inside the aircraft when she was almost sucked out at 32,000ft.

Nine other passengers received minor injuries in the incident before hero pilot Tammie Jo Shults made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport at 11.27am local time.

Paying tribute today, Ms Riordan's family said her "vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country".

They added: "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.

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults has been hailed as a "hero" after landing the jet (Image: Twitter)

"Her beauty and love is evident through 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 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."

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the city "lost a thoughtful leader who has long been part of the fabric of our community."

Following the incident, Southwest Airlines said it was "deeply saddened" in the wake of Ms Riordan's death.

A spokesman said: "The entire Southwest Airlines Family is devastated and extends its deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the Customers, Employees, Family Members, and loved ones affected by this tragic event.

"We have activated our Emergency Response Team and are deploying every resource to support those affected by this tragedy."

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed they had launched an investifation in a press conference last night.

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt revealed that one of the engine’s fan blades had separated and was missing.

"The blade was separated at the point where it would come into the hub and there was evidence of metal fatigue," he said.

The investigation is expected to take between 12 and 15 months.