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NTSB details deadly accident involving airport ground worker

WASHINGTON (AP) — A co-worker who saw a Montgomery, Alabama airport employee nearly knocked over by exhaust from a jet tried to warn her to stay back, but moments later the employee walked in front of one of the engines and was pulled in, killing her on Dec. 31, federal investigators said Monday.

Another ground worker on the other side of the plane had backed away after a pilot leaned out the window and said the engines were still running.

Throughout the incident, rotating beacons on the plane appeared to be illuminated, warning that engines were still running, investigators said.

The National Transportation Safety Board provided new details about the fatal accident involving an American Eagle jet in a preliminary report that relied on video surveillance and witness accounts. The board did not state a probable cause for the incident — that step usually follows an investigation that can take a year or longer.

The flight from Dallas to Montgomery Regional Airport with 63 passengers and crew was operated by Envoy Air, an affiliate of American Airlines.

An auxiliary power unit used to power the plane without using the engines was not working, according to the safety board, and pilots decided to leave both engines running for a two-minute engine cool-down period while they waited to for the plane to be connected to ground power.

The NTSB said the ground crew huddled shortly before the Embraer jet arrived at the gate to note that engines would remain running until the plane was connected to ground power, and the plane shouldn’t be approached until the engines were shut down and pilots turned off the beacon light.

The board also noted that an American Eagle manual revised in July warns workers never to come within 15 feet of the front of an engine — an area called the “ingestion zone” — until the engine’s blades stop spinning.

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