CELINA, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The world has been hearing stories of true heroism from the Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight that had to make an emergency landing after a jet engine explosion and one of those stories comes from here in North Texas.
CBS 11 News was there when Celina firefighter Andrew Needum spoke for the first time. Needum and his family were among the 149 people onboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 as it left LaGuardia Airport in New York bound for Dallas Love Field.
Needum explained how he was on the flight when the explosion happened and that after making sure his family was safe jumped in to help other passengers. Surrounded by his wife and parents at a fire station Celina, Needum said he did what any firefighter would do.
“I’ve been blessed with a servant’s heart… and that’s when I looked around to see who else needed some help and God called me to move,” he said.
The Celina Fire Department first-responder saw a female passenger was in trouble and worked to do what he could to try and save her. That passenger was Jennifer Riordan who was sitting near a window and was partially pulled out of the aircraft. The 43-year-old later died.
Federal investigators say the engine on the Boeing 737 blew apart, sending debris into the fuselage and shattering the window.
Needum didn’t elaborate about exactly what happened to Riordan out of respect for her family. “She had two kids, and a loving husband, and a community around her… that uh, that loved her. So, my heart is broken for them.”
Needum’s wife, Stephanie, and his family are among those expressing their gratitude for captain and pilot Tammie Jo Shults who is being praised for her professionalism and discipline during the harrowing emergency landing.
Shults, who was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy, was able to get Flight 1380 safely back on the ground – even with a hole in the side. After landing Stephanie Needum said Shults immediately came out into the cabin. “She made it a point to stop and talk to every passenger and interacted with every single passenger, to check to see if we were all alright.”
Andrew Needum has been a firefighter for four years and has been with the Celina Fire Department for the last year. He credits his faith and training for his heroic actions. His father, Tommy Needum, said, “He’s an amazing man. He’s an amazing son, and a boy and young man. He’s really grown into a fantastic firefighter.”
Andrew said being a firefighter is his calling and because he’s also been trained for emergency situations he was never fearful during the incident on the plane.