Worker who was pulled into jet engine at airport got too close despite warnings NTSB says

An airline worker killed in a Dec. 31 incident at an Alabama airport was exposed to multiple warnings about the dangers of being near running jet engines, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

A preliminary report shared by the agency Monday did not explicitly assign fault in the incident at Montgomery Regional Airport. It noted examples of when workers were warned to stay clear of running jet engines when planes are stopped on the ground.

The employee, identified by the NTSB as a ramp agent for American Airlines commuter carrier American Eagle, was on the tarmac and had apparently set up a safety cone at the rear of the parked aircraft right before she was pulled into an engine and killed, the agency said. The worker was not named in the NTSB report.

The Communications Workers of America identified the employee as Courtney Edwards, 34, a mother of three from the area. The union and American Airlines said she worked for regional subsidiary Piedmont Airlines.

The report describes multiple points when the worker was directly warned or exposed to information about the dangers of being too close to the engines.

The report also noted instances when two ramp agents saw workers get too close to the plane and an engine, and tried to waive them off. In one, an agent saw a worker almost fall over from an engine’s exhaust, and tried to warn her to stay back, according to the NTSB report.

Before the plane arrived at its gate from Dallas-Fort Worth, there were two safety briefings for crew members, during which they were warned the engines would stay on until electricity from the ground could be connected, the NTSB said.

The crew members were told safety cones should not be set, and crew on the ground should not be near the aircraft, until the engines were turned off, turbines stopped spinning and a rotating beacon light was extinguished, the report states.

An excerpt from American Eagle’s ground operations manual that was included in the NTSB report echoed those points.

After placing the cone, which signifies the plane’s stationary status, the worker walked along the leading edge of its left wing, which put her directly in front one of the Embraer 170’s two engines, according to the NTSB report.

During that walk along the wing, the employee got too close to the running engine and was killed, the NTSB said.

The rotating beacon light appeared to be on during the whole the incident, according to the report.

American Airlines and Edwards’ mother did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Richard Honeycutt, regional vice president of Communications Workers of America, said in a statement earlier this month, “She was away from her family working on New Year’s Eve making sure passengers got to where they needed to be for the holidays. She represents the very best of our CWA airport members, who constantly make sacrifices to serve the flying public.”

The union spearheaded a crowd-funding page has raised nearly $100,000 to support Edwards’ children.

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