A grim tragedy occurred at Montgomery Regional Airport on New Year’s Eve. Courtney Edwards, a 34-year-old mother of three working as a ground handling agent for Piedmont Airlines, was violently sucked into a plane engine and killed.
According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, Edwards had been warned by a colleague to keep her distance from the plane after she was nearly knocked over by the exhaust of a nearby jet.
Not long after, Edwards moved in front of one of the engines on the plane and was dragged toward it while carrying an orange safety cone. In a gruesome accident, the force of the engine pulled her off her feet and sucked into the deadly machine.
The flight involved in this accident was operated by Envoy Air, a subsidiary of American Airlines. There was a total of 59 passengers and four crew members on board.
The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the auxiliary power unit, which is typically used to power the aircraft without the need of engines, was not functioning correctly. Consequently, the pilots decided to keep both engines running for a two-minute period in order to cool them down while the plane was being connected to ground power.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that a safety gathering was held 10 minutes before the flight’s touchdown, and that a second safety “huddle” took place right before the Embraer jet arrived at the gate.
This huddle was to emphasize that the engines should remain running, and that no one should approach the aircraft until the engines were turned off and the pilots switched off the beacon light. Moreover, the NTSB found that the rotating beacons on the plane were lit up during the entire incident, indicating that the engines were operating.
Video footage revealed Edwards walking near the left side of the plane and close to the first engine. A co-worker shouted at him and gestured for her to move away. He began to step back, but then he heard a loud noise and the engine stopped working, as per the initial report.
A GoFundMe campaign which was launched to aid the family of Edwards has brought in more than $102,000 in donations. Edwards is survived by her mother and three young children.