A worker at Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama who died after being sucked into a jet engine was repeatedly warned to stay away from it before it was killed, according to investigators. The employee, named as Courtney Edwards by Al.com, and her colleagues from the ground crew had done a “safety huddle” in which they discussed how to move when the plane landed on December 31. They had a second meeting shortly after, just before the aircraft arrived at the gate, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board released on January 23.
The engines of the American Eagle jet were still running at the time of the accident. The pilots had decided to allow them a two-minute cooldown period due to the failure of an onboard auxiliary power unit. In order for the plane to be linked to a power source on the ground, the engines needed to stay on. The NTSB report confirms the pilots told airport workers that the engines would continue running for a short period.
According to the American Eagle manual, ground crew must stay at least 15 feet away from the front of the engine until the blades stop. The “safety huddle” held before the craft landed reminded workers of this fact and explicitly told them not to go near the plane until the engines were turned off.
Courtney Edwards was repeatedly warned against going near the plane
The worker who died was warned by a colleague to move back after he was nearly knocked over by exhaust. However, he then walked in front of one of the engines and was sucked in. He died immediately. The colleague who witnessed the man’s death described a “bang” as the engines shut down. The pilots later reported experiencing a violent jolt before finding out what happened.
Edwards, a mother of three, was a baggage handling agent for Piedmont Airlines. The Communication Workers of America Union provided a statement to Al.com, calling Edwards’ death a “terrible tragedy.”
“Courtney … was away from her family working on New Year’s Eve making sure passengers go to where they needed to be for the holidays. She represents the very best of our [airport workers], who constantly make sacrifices to serve the flying public,” the organization said.
A GoFundMe has been launched to help her family financially in the wake of Courtney Edwards’ death. At the time of writing, it has raised more than $102,000.