Amanda Bourman and her husband prayed they would see their daughters again as the plane's engine was aflame

By Jason Duaine Hahn
April 17, 2018 04:46 PM
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As Amanda Bourman drifted to sleep while seated next to her husband, Timothy, aboard Southwest Flight #1380 to Dallas on Tuesday morning, she had no idea she would wake up to a nightmare.

Bourman’s flight made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport after the aircraft’s left engine exploded shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Bourman—who was sitting toward the rear of the Boeing 737-700—awoke to the sound of the explosion, followed by the screams of panicked passengers throughout the cabin.

“I just had a really sick feeling in my stomach, my stomach was all in knots—you right away think that you’re not going to survive when an engine goes out,” Bourman, of Queens, New York, tells PEOPLE. “The plane started going back and forth as the pilot was trying to gain control of the plane again. I put my mask on and my husband and I right away grabbed on to each other and started praying.”

The explosion sent pieces of the plane flying into the aircraft’s fuselage, injuring several passengers and reportedly causing major damage to a window. The NTSB confirmed in a media briefing that one passenger died and several others were injured. The fatality was Jennifer Riordan, a mother of two and bank executive, according to the Associated Press.

Amanda and Timothy Bourman posing for a picture before the flight
Amanda Bourman

As Bourman held on to her husband—a pastor who was heading to San Antonio to celebrate his 10th year in his ministry—the two prayed together to ask for the safety of everyone aboard.

“We asked God to be with the pilot to land us safely,” she says, “and to send angels to watch over us.”

As the plane drifted from side to side thousands of feet in the air, Bourman pulled out her credit card and paid for an Internet connection, all so she could send one last message to her three daughters—ages 6, 4 and 2—who were staying with her father-in-law while she and Timothy were in San Antonio.

“I didn’t want my kids to grow up without their parents, because both of us were on there. It just seemed like it wasn’t time for them to be parentless and not have their parents around,” Bourman, 37, says through tears. “We texted my father-in-law and told them that we loved them, and that Jesus loved them, just in case they never saw us again.”

Amanda Bourman

In the minutes after the explosion, Bourman says their pilot came on the intercom to tell passengers they were headed toward Philadelphia. Bourman found herself peering out of the window praying to see land, only to find a sea of clouds that masked any perception of where they were.

“I was looking out the window and just wanting to see land, I was saying to myself, ‘Please, let me see land,’ ” Bourman recalls. “We had no idea for sure how far we were from Philadelphia. We didn’t know how high in the air we were, either.”

From her seat, Bourman witnessed passengers band together to help those who were injured. People hurried to perform CPR on a woman who she says suffered a heart attack, while another man—dressed in a cowboy hat—rushed to cover a broken window that endangered everyone’s safety.

As the damaged plane prepared to land in Philadelphia, Bourman says she didn’t know what would happen as the aircraft made contact with the tarmac—was the plane going to spin out of control, was a fire going to rage throughout the cabin?

“Right when we were about to land, the stewardess kept shouting, ‘Brace for impact! Brace for impact!’ ” she says. “We crouched down in the seat in front of us and held on. We didn’t know what to expect, but other than coming in a little quickly, the landing felt normal and everybody cheered because we were safe.”

Amanda Bourman

Bourman says she and Timothy are not going to find another flight to Texas—or any flight any time soon, for that matter. Instead, they’re going to take a trip to their property in North Carolina, and recuperate there for a few days. The mother of three says she is grateful for having survived the nightmare flight, and that she’ll be able to see her children once again.

“It feels surreal. We’ve seen things like this in the movies or TV shows, but when you’re experiencing it, it doesn’t seem real,” she says. “You think, this can’t happen. All I want to do right now is give my children a huge hug and tell them how much I love them.”