Mother of 3 sucked into plane engine was warned to stay back: NTSB

Courtney Edwards

An Alabama airport worker who was sucked into a plane engine was pulled in so violently that it shook the entire aircraft.

Federal investigators says she had been warned to keep her distance from the engine.

The Alabama airline worker who died after being sucked into a plane engine at Montgomery Regional Airport on New Year’s Eve is being remembered as a "loving mother" of three children.

Courtney Edwards, 34, was a ramp agent for Piedmont Airlines.  She was killed shortly after an Embraer 170 plane operated by Envoy Air landed at Montgomery Regional Airport on New Year's Eve with 63 passengers on board.

"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," a GoFundMe page set up by a fellow union member says. "Please know that this tragedy has and will affect her mother, family, friends and kids for years to come."

Richard Honeycutt, vice president of CWA District 3 and chair of CWA's Passenger Service Airline Council, said in a statement that Edwards "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," he added. "Her memory will live on in the hearts and minds of her fellow CWA members and those closest to her."

A report from the NTSB this week said the aircraft involved in the incident "shook violently" and shut off with a "bang" when it happened.

The preliminary report states the aircraft had an inoperative auxiliary power unit and that its captain signaled for it to be connected to ground power after arriving from Dallas, opting to "leave both engines running for the required two-minute engine cool down period."

As the captain was shutting off the plane’s right engine, he received a message that the aircraft’s front cargo door had opened and "the first officer opened his cockpit window to inform the ramp agent that the engines were still operating," the report says.

The NTSB found that the captain then told passengers to remain seated until the seat belt sign turned off and said to his colleague that the airplane’s left engine would be shut down after it was connected to ground power.

"Immediately thereafter, he saw a warning light illuminate and the airplane shook violently followed by the immediate automatic shutdown of the number 1 [left] engine," the report says.  

The NTSB, citing surveillance video, said Edwards was seen "walking along the leading edge of the left wing and directly in front of the number one engine" before she was "subsequently pulled off her feet and into the operating engine."

The report said just prior to the plane’s arrival, the ramp agents held two safety briefings "to reiterate that the engines would remain running until ground power was connected."

Fox Business contributed to this report.