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“God called me to move, so I acted.”

Meghan Overdeep
April 20, 2018

Andrew Needum, a firefighter/EMT from Celina, Texas, was one of 144 passengers onboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 when the plane’s left engine exploded, sending debris through one of the windows, earlier this week.

Needum, who was flying home from a family vacation with his wife Stephanie, their two young children, and his parents, sprung into action when he heard the bang. After helping those around him with their oxygen masks, Needum’s attention turned to a commotion at the back of the plane.

He told NBCDFW he glanced at his wife, “I looked in her eyes and she basically gave me the approval to go back there. In fact, I think she may have told me to go.”

The suction from the open window has pulled a one of the passengers, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, partially out of the aircraft.

“I just knew that at that moment someone else needed him much more than we did,” said Stephanie. “That’s what his calling is: to help.”

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Needum and another passenger, a man named Tim McGinty, worked together to pull Riordan back into the plane. Then Needum and a retired registered nurse named Peggy Phillips, administered CPR as the plane made an emergency landing.

“God called me to move, so I acted. I acted as I’d been trained,” Needum said. “No different than any other firefighter in this station or in this country.

Despite their efforts, Riordan didn’t survive.

Needum and his family told NBCDFW on Thursday that their hearts were broken for Riordan’s loved ones. “I feel for her family, I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that she lived in,” Needum told the camera through tears. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Through it all, Needum said he never once feared for his life. “God put people on that plane for a reason. Everybody acted and everybody stood strong,” he said.