Woman smashes gate to access Phoenix runway in vehicle with infant in car
PHOENIX — A woman driving with her infant son in her car crashed through a gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and drove on the runway in the latest in a series of similar mishaps across the country that have raised questions whether the nation's airports are truly secure.
The woman rammed the partially open airport gate around 10 p.m. Thursday and started crossing the runway, police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said. Officers forced the car to stop after a few minutes and detained the driver.
KoKo Nicole Anderson, 21, from nearby Mesa, was booked into jail on aggravated DUI and criminal damage charges. Police suspect she had taken an unknown drug.
The child — a 2-month-old boy — was in a car seat. He wasn't hurt and has been turned over to relatives. Crump said Anderson was so impaired she didn't even know her son was in the car.
“We don't believe her intent was to harm here,” Crump said. “We believe it's impairment and poor decision making.”
Such incidents are troublesome because a vehicle that crashed into a jetliner landing or taking off could cause a catastrophe, whether it was an intoxicated driver behind the wheel or a terrorist, said Jeff Price, an aviation professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver and former assistant security director at Denver International Airport.
Airports in general need to think about adding barriers that automatically pop up if an unauthorized vehicle enters a gate as part of an overall upgrade of perimeter security that also includes better detection systems, he said. He noted that Sky Harbor meets federal security standards.
The incident was the latest involving vehicles crashing through the Phoenix airport's gates or fences and getting onto its runways. Sky Harbor spent $10 million to upgrade its perimeter security and access gates after a man being chased by police in 2005 crashed a stolen pickup through a gate and drove onto the runways, passing several jets on a taxiway.
In 2003, two teens in a stolen car crashed through a perimeter fence and drove onto the airfield. Both incidents caused brief closure of aircraft operations.
Anderson had smashed her Saturn sedan into another gate at a nearby parking lot just minutes before, then continued driving and ended up on an airfield access road, police and Sky Harbor officials said at a press conference on Friday.
Sky Harbor spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said an airport operations worker was testing the gate as it was closing when the small sedan crashed through. The worker promptly notified police and the control tower, which ordered a halt to air traffic operations.
As the car made it onto a runway, Anderson lost control, then took off again, Crump said.
A police probable cause statement filed in support of the criminal charges said she then hit a portable toilet and kept driving until an officer rammed her car and caused it to spin around and crash into a fence.
She did not get out of the car after it stopped, and police found her with a pacifier in her month. All she told officers was that she wanted her flip-flop shoe.
Ostreicher said no aircraft were nearby at the time and no passengers were in immediate danger. Airport operations were stopped for about 15 minutes.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- BP credited with gulf tourism boom
- Wife, brother accused in man’s hatchet killing
- Doctors, hospitals get more time to convert to electronic health records
- EPA expected to expand protection of streams, wetlands
- Biden reassures Iraq: U.S. backs your forces in fight against Islamic State
- Rescuers find stranded woman in California desert, too late for husband
- Senate committee backs vets’ rights to marijuana
- Woman ends protest from anchor chain in Wash. against drilling
- Obama gets state, local allies for key initiatives
- Phone threats put scare into international flights
- Shuttered Tenn. cemetery opens for Memorial Day