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Security breach empties Oakland Airport

Times Staff Writer

Thousands of harried passengers were evacuated Friday from both terminals at Oakland International Airport after an unidentified man bolted past security without being screened.

Outbound flights were held and air travelers herded into the parking lot while officials searched for the man, who was not found. Airport Drive, which leads to the terminals, was also closed to traffic.

“Our parking lot was completely full of passengers,” said Joanne Holloway, an airport spokeswoman. “It was a slower time of the day. It could have been worse.”

She said 11 flights were immediately delayed for up to 90 minutes. The chain reaction of late-departing flights could push the number of delayed carriers to 50 by day’s end, with passenger waits of up to three hours.

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Inbound flights were also delayed until security officials gave up their search. They allowed several flights already boarded to leave after searching the planes, officials said.

Most passengers took the delay in stride as uniformed security directed them first to the baggage area and then outside the airport into a 50-degree chill.

“People were reluctant to leave,” said Joseph Onwuteaka, a Houston lawyer who was waiting to board his flight. “They said go outside, so people went to the baggage pickup area for a half hour,” Onwuteaka said.

“Then they showed up and said ‘No, that’s not what we meant. We said go outside into the parking lot two blocks away!’ ”

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Paul Winn and his girlfriend, Sarah Fosburgh, had planned to fly to Houston, where they were to begin a cruise to Mexico to celebrate his college graduation. At least that was the plan.

“Our luggage is back inside the airport,” he said. “We’re crossing our fingers.”

The delays started at 11 a.m. when a man asked security a question about a flight and then suddenly dashed up a flight of stairs, with the guards in chase.

Passenger Courtney Kimble couldn’t believe her bad luck.

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Friday was the 18-year-old’s first flight, a supposedly quick trip to Las Vegas to meet her brother.

The friendly skies seemed nice enough, she said. It was the unfriendly airport that scared her.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “Nobody is panicking yet. So maybe I’ll be OK.”

john.glionna@latimes.com

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