Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Suffers Broken Back After Rough Landing in California

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Southwest Air
Southwest Air

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A Southwest Airlines flight attendant was left with a serious spine injury after a very rough landing.

The crew member suffered a fracture to a vertebra in her upper back during touch down at the John Wayne-Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., on July 1, according to federal safety investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board report stated the impact of the landing was so severe that the flight attendant believed the plane had crashed.

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The flight attendant was seated in a jump seat at the back of the plane with her seatbelt on and in "brace position." Still, she immediately felt immense pain in her back and neck to the point where she couldn't move, and was taken to a local hospital where she was diagnosed with a "compression fracture to her T3 vertebra," according to the NTSB.

The organization also noted that none of the other 141 people on board the plane were injured in the incident.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, the airline wrote, "The safety of Southwest's customers and employees is always our top priority. We are concerned when any employee is injured. We reported the matter to the National Transportation Safety Board in accordance with regulatory requirements and conducted an internal review of the event."

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines

Kevin Dietsch/Getty

The Safety Board completed its investigation without detailing the cause of the hard landing, however the pilots — a 55-year-old captain and 49-year-old co-pilot — told investigators that they were aiming for the normal touchdown zone on a much shorter runway, and "trying to fly the aircraft onto the runway with minimal floating."

Runway 20R, where the incident occurred, is only 5,700 feet long and the John Wayne Airport's only commercial runway, according to the airport website. For comparison, runways at the nearby Los Angeles International Airport range between 8,926 and 12,293 feet, per

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According to tracking services, the plane was successfully making several flights a day prior to the experience. "A spokeswoman for the airline declined to provide further information when asked about the result of the internal investigation and whether the plane was inspected for evidence of damage that could occur during a hard landing," CBS News reported.

The NTSB has not made its documents from the investigation publicly available.