JetBlue Flight 1416 was just minutes into its trip from Long Beach, Calif., to Austin, Tex., on Sept. 18 when Scott Welch, a passenger in Seat 5A, heard a suspicious pop. Moments later, smoke began to fill the cabin, clogging the air to the point that he could see only a few rows in front of him, he said. The starboard engine of the Airbus A320, he soon learned, had blown.
As other passengers began to cry, and pray, Mr. Welch strapped on his oxygen mask and pondered his fate.
“I understood that I might be going to meet God,” Mr. Welch, 34, recalled. He thought, “If this is my time, this is my time.”
Faced with his own mortality, he could have closed his eyes in quiet reflection. Instead, Mr. Welch, a sports photographer, responded in a distinctly 2014 manner: He reached for his Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, thrust it into the murky air and pressed the record button. He even found the presence of mind to record a smiling selfie.