A worker at San Antonio’s international airport died after being sucked into a jet’s engine late on Friday, officials said.
A source briefed directly on the case told the Guardian on Sunday that it appeared the worker had “intentionally stepped in front of the live engine” on the jet and that police were investigating that aspect. But the cause of the worker’s death hadn’t officially been determined on Sunday, and the source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation into the case was still pending.
The worker’s death occurred at about 10.25pm as a Delta Air Lines jet which had just arrived from Los Angeles was taxiing to an arrival gate, US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials said in a statement.
Officials added that the worker – whose identity has not been publicly released – was ingested into the one engine which the plane in question had on at the time.
“The NTSB has been in contact with Delta,” the federal agency’s statement added. “They are in the information gathering process at this point.”
Unifi Aviation, whose workers provide ground handling operations for Delta and other airlines, employed the worker who was killed. In a statement provided to the local news outlet KENS, Unifi described itself as “deeply saddened by the loss of [the] employee … during a tragic incident”.
The company also made it a point to say that its initial investigation had shown the worker’s death was “unrelated to Unifi’s operational processes, safety procedures and policies”. The statement did not elaborate on whether officials suspect anything other than an accident had happened.
“Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased, and we remain focused on supporting our employees on the ground and ensuring they are being taken care of during this time,” Unifi’s statement added. “Out of respect for the deceased, we will not be sharing any additional information” at this time.
San Antonio firefighters and police officers were the first to respond to the worker’s death late on Friday. The NTSB has since joined the investigation into the worker’s death and could release a preliminary report with more details in the coming days.
While the full circumstances of Friday’s case weren’t immediately known, at least some aspects of it called to mind the 31 December 2022 death of Montgomery, Alabama, airport worker Courtney Edwards.
Investigators who examined Edwards’s death concluded that she and her colleagues had been warned repeatedly about the dangers of going near a jet which had landed that night and was left running for a cooldown period. But the mother of three walked in front of one of the engines and was killed.
Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (Osha) later determined a safety breach had led to Edwards’s death and issued a fine of more than $15,000 to the jet’s operator, an American Airlines subsidiary named Piedmont.
It was too early to know on Sunday what Osha may have concluded about Friday’s death at the San Antonio airport.