ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Family and friends gathered Sunday to mourn an Albuquerque bank executive who died after the Southwest Airlines plane she was on blew an engine in midair.
Nearly a thousand people attended the evening service for Jennifer Riordan, 43, the Albuquerque Journal reported . The service was held at Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus, her alma mater.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community. It truly touches our hearts,” the Riordan family wrote in a statement. “We know there are many in the community who want to celebrate Jennifer.”
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez presented Michael Riordan with a flag that was flown at half-staff at New Mexico’s Capitol in Jennifer Riordan’s memory.
“She was considered a friend, colleague, and pillar of the community and will be forever missed,” Sanchez said.
The community leader and mother of two had been heading home from a business trip Tuesday on a flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport bound for Dallas.
Early in the flight as the plane was at 32,000 feet (9,754 meters), one of its twin engines suddenly exploded. The impact showered the jet with debris and shattered the window next to Riordan.
Authorities said Riordan was fatally injured when she was sucked partway through the window, sending passengers scrambling to help her as the aircraft shook violently and went into a rapid descent. The plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Riordan was the only one of the 149 people on board who suffered fatal injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board believes one of the engine fan blades snapped.
Riordan was well known in the Albuquerque area for an established career in community engagement and volunteerism. She served as vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo’s New Mexico operations. She oversaw the company’s corporate giving program in New Mexico and volunteered her time with a number of area nonprofit groups and boards.
“She was the face of giving. If you were an idea or a dream that needed a little help, she was your gal. Her currency was compassion,” said Albuquerque poet laureate Hakim Bellamy, who read an original poem at the memorial. “The kind of kindness that folds like a hug like a laugh like her wings before she was so close to heaven that the angles recognized her and plucked her from the sky.”
Jennifer Riordan graduated from the University of New Mexico with a communications degree in 1999 and previously worked as the media relations manager at UNM Hospital.
Jennifer Riordan and her husband, Michael Riordan, a former chief operating officer for the city of Albuquerque, were married for more than 20 years.