Airport Mechanic Sucked Into Jet Engine

Jan. 17, 2006

Federal investigators are in El Paso figuring out how an airplane mechanic could have been sucked into a jet engine during a maintenance check at El Paso International Airport.

The name of the victim and official details of his death have not yet been released.

Continental Flight 1515 heading to Houston was supposed to take off at about 9 a.m. Monday.

"They didn't announce anything. We heard them say to call 9-11 and to close our windows," said Patsy Iturralde a passenger on Flight 1515.

Another passenger, Carlos Saucedo, said he noticed a mechanic working beneath one of the engines of the plane as he boarded.

"Suddenly the plane jump slightly and that's when they turned off the engines. One of the flight attendants told us to close the windows," said Saucedo.

Saucedo also said he heard a mechanic was sucked into the engine as he tried to reach for his baseball cap. But Continental Airlines officials could only confirm the mechanic, who was a contracted employee, was involved in a deadly incident.

A Continental representative flew from Houston to read a letter from the airline CEO.

Martin De Leon, the manager of public relations for the Houston-based airline, read:

"My fellow co-workers and I extend my sympathies to the family and friends of the mechanic involved in this tragic event. Continental is coordinating assistance with passengers who need help dealing with this tragedy."

Meanwhile, some passengers had to wait hours to board another flight.

"I do want to get on my way, but I don't feel inconvenienced. It's a sad situation I feel sad for his family whoever he was," said Iturralde.

Pat Abeln, the airport's aviation director, said the incident was tough on some airport staff. He said help is being offered to those employees exposed to the incident.

Abeln said, in his memory, El Paso International has not had an incident of this nature.

He said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate what happened and it will make recommendations if it's determined changes should be made.

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