‘God put me on that plane for a reason’: Firefighter who tried to rescue woman on Southwest flight discusses incident

Andrew Needum at news conference on April 19, 2018

CELINA, Texas – A firefighter who tried to save the life of a woman who was sucked out the window of a Southwest flight says he believes God put him on the flight for a reason and guided his family.

Andrew Needum, a firefighter and paramedic from Celina, Texas, was aboard Southwest Flight 1380 Tuesday afternoon as it was traveling from New York to Dallas. The plane suffered engine failure after a piece of metal hit an engine. As a result, a window shattered, and Jennifer Riordan was sucked through.

“[It was a] terrible thing that happened. Someone lost their life,” Needum said.

Needum said he and his family had visited New York for a vacation with some relatives. His parents were also celebrating their 39th anniversary. The plane took off from LaGuardia and he recalled hearing a loud “pop” while flight attendants were in the aisle. They had just started taking drink orders, he recalled.

The plane’s oxygen masks were deployed. Needum said his father and son were sitting next to him. He helped them get their masks on and saw his mom, wife and daughter across the aisle with their masks on.

A young woman and child behind them had trouble with their masks and he tried to help them. After he sat back down, he heard some commotion at the rear of the plane. He got up and went to help.

Witnesses reported seeing Needum help Tim McGinty, a Texas rancher, pull Riordan back into the plane. Needum and a nurse performed CPR. Needum himself wouldn’t talk about what he saw or experienced while trying to help save Riordan’s life.

“What took place back there, I’m going to leave alone out of respect to her family,” he said.

“I never was in fear of my life. I’m sure my family could speak otherwise,” he said. “I’m trained for emergency situations, and that’s exactly what it was. I felt moved to act, as well as other people on that plane.”

He described the pilot and crew as “professionals” and said he’d never hesitate to fly Southwest again.

“Southwest took great care of us. No question who we’ll be flying with again,” he said.

His two children, ages 8 and 5, were “shaken” by the experience, but Needum said they were “strong” and working to get through it. His primary concern is for Riordan’s family.

“Again, my heart goes out to Jennifer and her family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” he said of Riordan. “She had two kids and a loving husband. My heart is broken. I hope they find healing, whatever that may be. Time will help.”

Needum said he was still in contact with others on the flight. They’re all “healing” and “know they’re not alone.”

“God put me on that plane for a reason,” he said.

The plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. The incident remains under investigation.