By Courtney Dentch
Nearly 2,000 passengers were evacuated from the Delta and Northwest Airlines terminal at LaGuardia Airport Friday morning after two paramedics escorting an ill passenger went through security without being screened, government and airline officials said.
The breach occurred just before 10 a.m., and about 20 planes were disrupted, said Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Aircraft that had left the terminal and taxied out to the runways were returned to the terminal, and passengers aboard were also rescreened, she said.
A Northwest spokesman said the breach was caused when a passenger on a stretcher who was booked on a Northwest flight to Memphis entered the terminal accompanied by two paramedics. Although reports said it was the paramedics who were not screened when they entered, Kurt Ebenhoch, the spokesman for Northwest Airlines could not confirm that.
“It appears to be related to how the three of them went through the security checkpoint,” he said.
The FAA would not comment on the specifics of the breach, Salac said.
“Screening procedures were not followed so we had to dump the terminal and rescreen all the passengers,” she said. “We have a no-tolerance rule now.”
Passengers on arriving flights were not allowed to disembark during the breach, Salac said.
The breach lasted about 90 minutes while the 2,000 passengers crowded the entrance to the terminal, waiting to be rescreened. Airline and airport employees also had to be rescreened, and they were the first to re-enter the terminal once the all-clear signal was given.
Passengers, who waited patiently while the situation was resolved, were given little information, said Kathy Banyar, of Maywood, N.J.
“We just heard they’re taking people off the planes and rescreening them.” said Banyar, who was on her way to California with her family.
The Banyars had not entered the terminal when the breach occurred, she said, adding that she was not worried about the cross-country trip.
“I’m not nervous,” she said. “I’m glad they’re taking precautions.”
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.