In Las Vegas mass shooting chaos, airport became a safe haven
By SALLY HO
LAS VEGAS — As bullets began flying into a crowd of country music fans, a pack of 300-plus people ran about a mile to the Las Vegas airport, where they kicked down chain-link fences, hobbled over razor wire and were briefly mistaken by security officials for being attackers instead of shooting victims.
Once they pushed past the fence at McCarran International Airport, some of them ran onto the tarmac as helicopters beamed searchlights toward people they assumed were intruders.
Airport authorities found people who were shot, bloodied and hysterical. Officials immediately halted air traffic, diverted two dozen flights to Phoenix and other cities and shut off some runway lights.
“I’m thinking to myself, I don’t know if the airport police know what’s going on yet,” said Mark Gay, who was near the front of the crowd as it ran to the airport. “We were running, running out of the dark. If the cops were on that side, they don’t know who we are. So it was: ‘Put your arms out when you’re coming in.’”
The large-scale airport breach highlighted the chaos that ensued after gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on Oct. 1 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino-hotel on a country music festival down below, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. The breach also raised questions about the security of the McCarran International’s perimeter as people were able to barge their way through the fences of one of the nation’s busiest airports.
“I don’t know that we ran across any breach that was comparable to this,” said Jenny Grover of the Government Accountability Office, which audits the Transportation Security Administration and reviews the agency’s security data. “Because of the uniqueness of the situation, I’m not really sure when it changed from a breach to a relief effort.”
McCarran has had […]