Woman killed in jetliner explosion was from Albuquerque

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An Albuquerque woman known for her active work in the New Mexico volunteer community has been identified as the person killed by an engine explosion on a Southwest Airlines flight Tuesday. 

Jennifer Riordan was a prominent community member who many remember locally as the head of community relations for Wells Fargo in New Mexico, where she oversaw volunteer and charitable programs for the last decade.

Riordan was critically injured on board a Southwest Airlines flights from New York to Dallas Tuesday morning. 149 people were on board the flight that made an emergency landing in Philadelphia just before noon.

The airline says the plane’s left engine exploded in mid-flight. The force was enough to break a window and send shrapnel into the aircraft. Multiple people were injured, included Riordan who was said to have been taken to a Philadelphia hospital where she died from injuries sustained in the explosion. 

A mother of two and wife to longtime City of Albuquerque administrator Michael Riordan, Jennifer Riordan was well known in Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico for her work in marketing and communications. Riordan earned a degree in the field from UNM and later worked as a spokeswoman for UNM Hospital from 2002 to 2005. 

Tuesday night, those who knew Riordan spoke of her as a passionate volunteer, mom, Catholic and New Mexican.

“She there for you, she was there for everybody,” said Alice Garza, who knew Riordan for a decade. “It’s a big loss for everyone.”

Garza says she met Jennifer Riordan when she started working for Wells Fargo, having installed Riordan’s phone. The two became friends and were both later appointed to New Mexico’s Commission on Community Volunteerism.

“She wanted the best you know for this town, this state,” said Garza. “And if you were saying, ‘Jennifer, I’m struggling with this,’ she says, ‘Well how can I help you?'”

The help she gave also reached the local Catholic Church. Riordan had ties to the Annunciation Catholic School in Albuquerque and the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

President of the foundation, Ed Larrañaga recruited Jennifer to serve on the foundation’s board three years ago. 

“You know true sincerity when it’s put into action, and that was Jennifer,” said Larrañaga. “Jennifer wanted to put things into action, she really wanted to show how she could make a difference and she really wanted to get involved with that.”

Larrañaga calls Jennifer Riordan “one of the most positive people” that he had ever met. 

“Although it is a tragic loss, I know that people are better for having known her,” said Larrañga.

The Riordan Family released the following statement Tuesday evening:

Jennifer Riordan has passed away as a result of previously reported events on Southwest Airlines flight #1380.  Jennifer’s vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country.  Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured. But foremost, she is the bedrock of our family.  She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other.  Her beauty and love is evident through her children.  We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support from family, friends and our community.  We do ask that those who seek to express their condolences and prayers as well as media outlets respect our privacy at this time.  Our family and friends need this time to both grieve and celebrate Jennifer’s impact on us all.  In her memory–please remember to always be kind, loving, caring, and sharing.

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