Woman sucked into plane engine warned to stay back: NTSB

(NewsNation) — An Alabama airport worker who died when she was sucked into the engine of a plane was warned by other crew members to keep her distance, federal investigators found.

Courtney Edwards, 34, has been identified as the ramp agent who died in the accident Dec. 31 at Montgomery Regional Airport.

A preliminary report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board found that prior to her death, a co-worker observed Edwards nearly knocked over by the exhaust from a jet and tried to warn her to stay back until the engines were turned off.

The Embraer 170 jet operated by Envoy Air, a subsidiary of American Airlines, carrying 63 passengers had pulled up to the gate following a flight from Dallas and parked when a cockpit warning sounded that the forward cargo door had opened. The first officer opened the window to inform one of the four ramp agents that the engines were still running, the report states.

As the captain was in the process of shutting down the plane’s left engine, a warning light illuminated and “the airplane shook violently” followed by the immediate shutdown of the engine.

Surveillance footage showed four ramp agents were at the gate at the time of the accident: one at the forward cargo door, one at the nose, one on the right wing and one, Edwards, who walked toward the back of the plane. As Edwards walked toward the back of the plane, the agent at the right wing “could be seen gesturing with his hand towards the back of the airplane,” the report states.

Edwards briefly disappeared from view before reappearing along the left wing and directly in front of the engine, where she was sucked in, according to the report. A light on the exterior of the plane indicating that the engines were operating was illuminated throughout the course of the event, the report states.

Both the agent at the right wing and nose of the plane told federal investigators that they warned Edwards to keep her distance because the engines were still running.

The report includes safety information from an American Airlines manual dated July 13, 2022, instructing ramp agents to never approach an aircraft while the engines are still running.

“The engine must be spooled down before entering the ingestion zone. This can take between 30-60 seconds, depending on aircraft type,” an excerpt from the manual reads, as listed in the NTSB report. “This applies to both wing and fuselage/tail mounted engines. You must wait until you can clearly see the individual fan blades before entering the ingestion zone.”

A crew safety meeting was held about 10 minutes before the airplane arrived at the gate, and workers were told that the engines would remain running for a short time after it parked at the gate, the report states.


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