A Southwest Airlines flight attendant suffered a fracture to her spine during a rough landing last month, the public has just learned. According to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board per PEOPLE, a Southwest Airlines flight hit the runway hard at the John Wayne-Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, California on July 1. The injured attendant was so shocked by the impact that she assumed the plan must have crashed.
The unnamed attendant was seated in a jump seat at the back of the airplane. She was wearing her seatbelt and was in "brace position." As the plane touched down, she experienced sharp and immediate pain that rendered her immobile all at once. She was rushed to a local hospital where she was diagnosed with a "compression fracture to her T3 vertebra." One of the strangest things about this injury is that no one else on the plane was hurt.
Southwest gave a statement to PEOPLE, saying: "The safety of Southwest's customers and employees is always our top priority. We are concerned when any employee is injured. We reported the matter to the National Transportation Safety Board in accordance with regulatory requirements and conducted an internal review of the event."
The NTSB did not identify one specific cause for this injury, nor for the reason that 141 other people on the plane emerged unscathed. The pilots pointed out that the runway was much shorter than usual – Runway 20R at John Wayne-Orange County Airport is only 5,700 feet long, compared to the usual range of around 9,000 to around 12,000 feet at LAX. The pilot and co-pilot said that they were "trying to fly the aircraft onto the runway with minimal floating."
The plane itself does not seem likely to be the cause either, since it had been making several flights per day consistently before this incident. CBS News reportedly asked a Southwest spokesperson whether the plane was inspected for damage, but they declined to comment.
Some details of Southwest's internal investigation and the NTSB's investigation are still not publicly available. The injured attendant's condition has not been updated, and it is not clear how long it will take her to recover.