Alabama airline worker dies after getting sucked into aircraft engine despite 'being warned many times'
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: An Alabama airline worker reportedly died after being sucked into the engine of a stationary aircraft. The horrifying tragedy occurred on New Year's Eve at Montgomery Regional Airport and the victim, 34-year-old Courtney Edwards, was a mother-of-three who worked as a ground agent for Piedmont Airlines.
After Edwards was sucked into the engine, the entire aircraft allegedly shook violently. However, a report from the National Transport Safety Board stated that Edwards was killed after failing to adhere to the repeated warnings to stay back until she got too close to the engine of an American Eagle-operated Embraer E175 jet while the plane was shutting down.
As the captain began the process of shutting down the engines, he received a warning that the plane's front cargo door was open, stated the report. The co-pilot swiftly alerted workers on the ground to let them know the engines were still on. "Immediately thereafter, he saw a warning light illuminate and the airplane shook violently followed by the immediate automatic shutdown of the number 1 engine," the report read.
"Unsure of what had occurred, he extinguished the emergency lights and shut off both batteries before leaving the flight deck to investigate," the report continued, as per Daily Mail. The report said that there was a video of Edwards walking in front of the first engine on the left of the plane while violating protocol as the airplane's rotating beacon light remained lit.
The report read, "Throughout the course of the accident, the airplane’s upper rotating beacon light appeared to be illuminated. She was subsequently pulled off her feet and into the operating engine." One of Edwards' colleagues told investigators he saw her "almost fall over from the engine's exhaust while he attempted to warn her to stay back and wait for the engines to be shut down."
Another said that he tried to warn Edwards that the engine was still on, and as he proceeded to do so, he heard a "bang." The ground crew reportedly said that they had two meetings prior to the landing, during which they discussed the engines would be running until ground power was connected as the plane does not have auxiliary power. Citing the American Eagle Ground Operations Manual, the report said that workers should not not approach the front of a running jet engine known as the "ingestion zone" and to keep a safe distance of at least 15ft.
Edwards' shocked co-worker Divonta Palmer told WSFA, "I can’t wrap my mind around how did this happen. She would tell me that she was always dedicated and motivated to do the best job and put the best foot forward."
A GoFundMe was set up for Edwards by local union rep, Donielle Prophete. "Please know that this tragedy has and will affect her mother, family, friends and kids for years to come," the fundraiser read.