Man sparks security alert after wandering on to runway at Florida airport

Airport authorities are looking into the security breach

Click to follow
The Independent US

Flights in Florida were delayed on Monday after a man wandered onto a runway at Tampa International Airport.

Alexander Ortega, who has a history of mental illness, jumped over the airport fence at around 5pm and ran towards Runway 1.

He was spotted by airport staff at a nearby maintenance hangar, who called the emergency services.

The 27-year-old was arrested by airport police three minutes after he was seen making his way to the tarmac, where planes would have been taking off and landing.

Mr Ortega was given a warning for trespassing and taken into custody, and video footage shows him being handcuffed by police before being taken away.

A spokeswoman for Tampa International Airport, Emily Nipps, said: “Any time there is a breach to our perimeter fencing, it is concerning.

“However, we do believe our system is effective, as Mr Ortega was spotted by several airport and tenant employees from the moment he entered the perimeter, and he was apprehended within three minutes.

“We take any incident like this very seriously and are always evaluating the effectiveness of our security systems,” Ms Nipps added.

Mr Ortega was not hurt but was taken to hospital for a mental health assessment.

As he was taken away, Mr Ortega told reporters that he had ended up on the tarmac because he was fleeing for his life.

Two planes were delayed at the airport, briefly holding up a Southwest flight to Houston and a United flight to Chicago. 

Airport officials are looking into how Mr Ortega was able to breach security and make it onto the runway in the first place.