Celina Firefighter on Flight 1380: God Called Me to Move

After an engine blew on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas, a North Texas firefighter says he jumped into action because of his training and his faith.

“God called me to move, so I acted. I acted as I’d been trained,” said Andrew Needum, a firefighter/EMT from Celina. “No different than any other firefighter in this station or in this country.”

Tuesday, debris from the engine blowing out broke a window of a Southwest Airlines plane approximately 20 minutes after taking off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The suction from the open window pulled 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan partially out of the aircraft.

A man named Tim McGinty and Needum worked together to pull Riordan back into the plane. Needum and at least one other person, a retired registered nurse named Peggy Phillips, administered CPR as the plane made an emergency landing.

In spite of the heroic efforts, Riordan didn’t survive.

Needum and his family on Thursday said their hearts were broken for Riordan’s loved ones.

“I feel for her family, I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that she lived in,” said Needum through tears. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Needum was flying home from a family vacation with his wife, two children and his parents.

The family described hearing a “pop” sound shortly after take-off. Needum was sitting next to his father and eight year old son. Across the aisle was his wife, five year old daughter and mother.

While the family assisted the children and other around them with oxygen masks, they heard a commotion from the back where Riordan was pulled out of the plane.

Needum says he glanced at his wife, “I looked in her eyes and she basically gave me the approval to go back there. In fact, I think she may have told me to go.”

“I just knew that at that moment someone else needed him much more than we did,” said Stephanie Needum. “That’s what his calling is: to help.”

Needum said he didn’t fear for his safety. He had high praise for the Southwest Airlines crew and the captain.

“God put people on that plane for a reason. Everybody acted and everybody stood strong,” said Needum.

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