Airline fined after worker dies being ‘violently’ sucked into engine

Courtney Edwards was killed on New Year’s Eve after being ingested into a running jet engine. Photo / WSFA

An airline has been fined $US15,625 (NZD$25,072) following the death of a ground crew member who was tragically sucked into a plane’s engine while it was parked at an Alabama airport.

The regional subsidiary of American Airlines was handed the fine by federal safety regulations after the New Year’s Eve accident which saw the death of 34-year-old Courtney Edwards.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) imposed the fine against Piedmont Airlines after investigators found it was responsible for a safety breach that led to the death at Montgomery Regional Airport.

The investigation found that the mother of three was “ingested into the engine” as she was “on the ramp at Montgomery Regional Airport where American Airlines Flight 3408, an Embraer E175, was parked”.


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The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also found that the ground crew at the airport held two safety briefings 10 minutes before the plane landed at the terminal.

During this, staff were told not to approach the plane until the engine was fully shut off and a beacon light was switched off, according to the NTSB report published in the Dallas Morning News.

Once the flight arrived, the pilot was alerted to the fact that the cargo door was being opened while he was starting to turn off the right engine.

The NTSB report states that footage from the airport shows Edwards walking towards the back of the plane holding an orange road cone before she disappeared from view before the incident took place.


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The co-pilot reported that the plane then “shook violently” and was “followed by the immediate automatic shutdown”.

But the Communication Workers of America, Edwards’ union, released a statement saying that OHSA found that the airline was at fault for “lack of effective training, clear and unambiguous communication on the ramp, and clear instructions from supervisors as to when it is safe to approach an aircraft”.

Courtney Edwards leaves behind three children. Photo / Facebook
Courtney Edwards leaves behind three children. Photo / Facebook

Edwards leaves behind three children, and a GoFundMe was set up to help support the family. So far it has raised more than $US120,000 (NZD$192,550) which will go towards “funeral expenses, day-to-day expenses and any other expenses needed to care for the children”, according to the page.

“Courtney was a Ground Handling agent for Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, a loving mother of 3 kids and a wonderful daughter to her beloved mother, Natalie English of Montgomery, Alabama,” the GoFundMe page reads.

“Please know that this tragedy has and will affect her mother, family, friends and kids for years to come.”

After the incident, American Airlines released a statement sharing their thoughts and prayer for the family: “We are devastated by the accident involving a team member of Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines regional carrier, at Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM).”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and our local team members,” the company said.

“We are focused on ensuring that all involved have the support they need during this difficult time.”

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