by Jim Clayborn
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report regarding the death of an airport worker at the Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama on New Year’s Eve.
The report indicated that Courtney Edwards, 34, a ramp agent for American Airlines subsidiary, Piedmont Airlines, was killed after she was sucked into a plane engine despite being warned not to get close to the engine.
At around 2:40 p.m., American Eagle flight ENY3408 from Dallas-Fort Worth arrived at the gate following an “uneventful flight,” according to the NTSB report via Alabama News Network. After stopping the plane, the crew let both engines keep running for the required two-minute engine cool-down period as they waited for the plane to be connected to the power in the ground.
The crew did this since they were operating with a broken auxiliary power unit.
As crew members were shutting down the engines, they got an alert that the cargo door was open. The first officer opened his window from the cockpit to let the ramp agents know that the engines were still running, while the captain announced for passengers to remain in their seats.
The first officer then reported he “saw a warning light illuminate and the airplane shook violently followed by the immediate automatic shutdown of the number 1 engine,” according to the report. “Unsure of what had occurred, he extinguished the emergency lights and shut off both batteries before leaving the flight deck to investigate.”
During this time, video surveillance footage captured Edwards walking in front of the left engine (the number one engine) carrying an orange safety cone. Moments later, “she was subsequently pulled off her feet and into the operating engine,” according to the report.
Crews were instructed to steer clear of the engines until they had been informed that the engines were no longer running and the yellow warning light had been turned off. After the Envoy Air Embraer 170 plane from Dallas landed and the right engine was in the process of powering down, the plane’s first officer opened his window and reiterated to crew members that the engines were still running. By that time, one crew member had noticed that Edwards had nearly been knocked over by the plane’s exhaust and issued yet another warning for Edwards to give the engines a wide berth.Advertisement
Another ramp agent saw Edwards approach the engine and attempted to yell and waver her off. She started to move away from the plane, but he then heard a “bang,” and the left engine shut down.
Before the plane arrived, ground crew members held a ten-minute safety meeting “to reiterate that the engines would remain running until ground power was connected,” according to the NTSB.
The ground crew was also informed that they should not approach the plane until the engines were turned down and the pilots turned off the rotating beacon light.
An American Eagle ground operations manual, released in July 2022, also states that the ground crew should never approach within 15 feet of the engine when running.
The 59 passengers and four-person crew onboard were uninjured.
All inbound and outbound flights at the Montgomery Regional Airport were grounded at the airport following the incident but resumed normal operations at around 8:30 p.m. that same day.
Edwards is survived by her three children, her mother, and other family and friends, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.