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Southwest flight makes emergency landing after engine explodes

By Eric DuVall

PENSACOLA, Fla., Aug. 27 (UPI) -- A Southwest flight from New Orleans to Orlando, Fla., was forced to make an emergency landing Saturday morning after passengers said an engine exploded while they were flying over open water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Witnesses posted pictures of the burnt out engine on social media. One woman told KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, where she and her family live, that they heard a loud explosion and saw flames and smoke briefly coming out of the engine before the plane, Southwest Flight 3472, began to lose altitude sharply.

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The woman, who was not identified, said oxygen masks dropped from the compartments above passengers' seats. Shortly after the Boeing 737 leveled off, the woman said the captain entered the passenger cabin and told everyone they were going to make an emergency landing in Pensacola, Fla. The pilots were able to guide the plane safely to the ground in Pensacola without further incident.

Southwest said the plane suffered "a mechanical issue with the No. 1 engine" prompting the emergency landing. The aircraft has been taken out of service and the National Transportation Safety Board may open an investigation, Southwest Airlines said.

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None of the 99 passengers and five crew members aboard were injured. The woman told KOCO that crew members worked flawlessly after the incident and were able to keep passengers calm.

"(The crew) stayed professional. They were amazing," she said. "I mean, we couldn't have had a better crew, and it was thanks to that pilot that we're all alive."

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