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Posted: 5/28/2003 5:29:36 PM EDT
Oh yes, I feel so safe with TSA and the feds looking out for our protection. [rolleyes] Like I needed ANOTHER reason never to set foot on a commercial flight again? [url]http://pennlive.com/newsflash/pa/index.ssf?/base/news-2/105415258159220.xml[/url] Authorities investigating how man snuck onto plane By MIKE CRISSEY The Associated Press 5/28/2003, 7:55 p.m. ET PITTSBURGH (AP) — Police detectives poked around conveyor belts and reviewed videotapes at Pittsburgh International Airport on Wednesday as they tried to identify security loopholes that allowed a man to board and fall asleep on a parked commuter plane. Police and federal transportation authorities were trying to figure out how Louis Esquivel skirted security at the airport late at night before being found aboard the unlocked plane over the weekend. A flight attendant found Esquivel, 21, of San Antonio, asleep in a seat of an American Eagle regional jet at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. He didn't have a ticket or a pass. The incident is at least the second time this year a man has been found on a parked airplane despite heightened security. In January, a mechanic at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport spotted a man who walked up steps and onto an empty Boeing 737 in the early morning hours. Allegheny County police said Esquivel told them he was able to dodge security by ducking behind a closed ticket counter when the area was mostly deserted late Friday night and crawled to the airfield through the baggage system. "We are putting our people through it to see if it can be done," said Ken Fulton, head of the Allegheny County police. Esquivel told police he followed a conveyor belt under the rubber strips where luggage disappears until he hit a door, which he pried open and squeezed through. From the innards of the airport's baggage system, he then got on the tarmac and jumped aboard a van where he found the keys in the ashtray, police said. He drove to a gate, got onto an enclosed ramp and boarded the plane. Fulton said police had confirmed parts of Esquivel's story. A couple of the 300-odd video cameras near the ticket counter and inside the baggage system spied Esquivel. Police said they also found keys to the van in his pocket when he was arrested. Authorities were also checking out his other stories. Esquivel, who was described as a paranoid schizophrenic, also said he climbed the fence around the runway and that he scaled walls in a baggage drop-off area to get to the airfield. Esquivel had bought a ticket on a US Airways flight from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and hoped to make his way to St. Louis, his childhood home, police said. It's unclear how Esquivel made his way from San Antonio to Los Angeles. Regardless of how he made it to the plane, federal officials said they were "extremely upset" over the weekend incident and began a review of security. Robert Blose, head of security for the federal Transportation Security Administration at Pittsburgh's airport, ordered vehicles in secured areas to be locked and the keys removed. "It raised tremendous alarms for me and, obviously, I'm extremely upset about it," Blose told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in Wednesday's editions. Blose did not return phone messages left by The Associated Press. Airport officials and airlines are investigating whether someone forgot to lock down the baggage conveyor belt or if something was broken, said airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny. Meanwhile, American Eagle was working with airport officials and police to determine exactly how Esquivel got onto the plane. Federal rules require parked airplanes to be disconnected from the ramps and their doors closed but not locked, said Lisa Bailey, an airline spokeswoman. "He got around that. We are interested in how he did that," Bailey said. Fulton said county police plan no changes at the airport. Typically, 10 officers patrol the airport, both inside and out. "We don't have people to patrol every single baggage area and every nook and cranny," Fulton said. Esquivel remained in the Allegheny County Jail on Wednesday, held on $25,000 bond. He was charged with criminal trespass, theft, receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
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