LOCAL L.A. Now

LAX shooting: Thousands of frustrated passengers stranded

In the aftermath of a shooting at LAX on Friday that left one Transportation Security Administration dead and three others wounded, stranded air travelers were trying to make new plans or find their way home.

The roads are blocked off near the intersection of Century and Sepulveda boulevards, and one of the main thoroughfares into Los Angeles International Airport and freeways leading into the airport were also closed. Terminals 1 and 2 are slowly reopening, with airport employees and concessionaires being allowed to enter first. 

Hundreds of people stood milling outside of the nearby Radisson hotel, spilling onto the sidewalk and into the street. A steady stream of passengers rolled suitcases and carried luggage, walking down Century Boulevard.

“It’s a little frustrating, but I guess I appreciate what they do for our security,” said 22-year-old Tyler Bozeman of Rancho Cucamonga.

Bozeman was supposed to fly to Alabama on Friday to visit family, but he arrived to find the airport closed. 

But as the airport closure ticked past three hours, patience among hundreds of passengers stranded at the Radisson had started to wear thin.

Passengers with the suitcases filled the hotel lobby Friday afternoon to buy snacks, bottles of water and recharge cellphones as hundreds milled about outside trying to make alternate plans.

Some even made makeshift picnic area on strips of landscaping outside the hotel. Among them was Evangelina Rodriguez, 35, of Hacienda Heights, her husband and their 4-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter.

They were in a shuttle headed to the airport when news of the shooting broke out. The driver dropped them off at the hotel at 10 a.m. as police closed off access.

“It was just scary, we didn’t know what was happening,” Rodriguez said. “We were just glad we were outside.”

But three hours later, frustration was setting in as they tried to make alternative plans for flying to Chicago.

“The fact that here we are three hours later, it’s overblown,” said her husband, who declined to give his name. “I understand that people have to do their jobs, but this is ridiculous.”

Francis Specker, 50, was supposed to be on a flight for New York at 10:30 a.m. that was to depart from Terminal 3, where Friday’s shooting occurred.

Specker, from Riverside, was on the shuttle bus to the airport about 9:15 a.m. when the vehicle was stopped and the driver said it couldn’t get any closer to the airport. Specker checked Twitter and saw reports of the shooting and shared it with everyone else on the bus.

“It’s funny because I was hanging at the house ready to leave, but I didn’t want to wait at the airport, so I waited a half-hour. If I had gone to the airport, I probably would have seen the whole thing,” Specker said.

The shuttle turned around and came to a stop on Sepulveda Boulevard. He got off and walked to the Radisson and was still holding on to hope that he’d catch a flight later in the day.

Specker said he was living in New York at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and said Friday’s shooting was not a huge surprise.

“I guess this is sort of the new normal, right?”

He was, however, a bit frustrated and said “it’s one of the largest airports in the world and they’re not letting people get on with their lives.”

Leandro Peixoto, 37, of Sherman Oaks was worried about his 70-year-old mother, who was on the way to L.A. for her first time.

She's flying from Brazil and doesn’t speak any English, Peixoto said, and was not carrying a phone. He had been unable to get in touch with her.

Sitting with on the curb near the hotel with his hands in his hair -- exasperated -- Peixoto said “the hardest part is not getting any information or ability to reach out to anyone who knows anything about her.”

He sat watching the stream of passengers coming down Century Boulevard in the hopes that one of them would be his mother.

“I just have to wait here,” he said.

ALSO:

Eyewitness accounts of LAX shooting

LAX shooting: 'Multiple' TSA agents shot by gunman with rifle 

SoCal airport security boosted, some LAX flights routed to Ontario 

Twitter: @katemather

kate.mather@latimes.com

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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