A baggage handler for an American Airlines regional carrier died Saturday after reportedly being sucked through the engine of a jet at an Alabama airport, authorities said.
The gruesome tragedy occurred at the Montgomery Regional Airport at around 3 p.m. The victim, who was not immediately identified, worked for Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating, according to AL.com.
“We are devastated by the accident involving a team member of Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines regional carrier, at Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM),” a spokesperson for American Airlines said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and our local team members. We are focused on ensuring that all involved have the support they need during this difficult time.”
According to Reuters, two sources briefed on the incident said the employee died in “an accident involving one of the airplane’s engines that was running.”
Today around 3 pm an American Airlines ground crew piedmont employee was involved in a fatality, no additional information is available at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased.
— Montgomery Regional Airport (@flymgm) January 1, 2023
The aircraft was reportedly an Embraer 175, a narrow-body plane designed to carry up to 124 passengers and used frequently for short- to medium-range routes.
Airport Executive Director Wade Davis issued a statement following the tragic accident.
“We are saddened to hear about the tragic loss of a team member of the AA/Piedmont Airlines,” Davis said.
The airport resumed normal operations Saturday evening, the airport tweeted.
The “worker was fatally injured on the ramp at Montgomery Regional Airport where American Airlines Flight 3408, an Embraer E175, was parked,” the FAA said in a statement to AL.com.
A preliminary report from the FAA is expected on Monday, according to the agency.
Although extremely rare, such incidents have occurred in the past. According to Aerocorner.com, jet engines use a powerful compressor to suck up to 1.2 million tons of air per second through them, even while idling or powering up. The suction created is strong enough to pull a human through the engine if he or she gets too close. Baggage, tools, and birds have all been sucked through the engines.