I saw another account of this Ft. Myers News-Press story last night. Mr. Brems apparently was just trying to get away from the police. Still this episode shows how an airport's security can be breached. Is all the extra vigilance with airline paassengers truly needed or are airports more vulnerable elsewhere?
Linked to- Outside the Beltway, Bright & Early,
Local airport officials and federal authorities agree security procedures were followed properly after a man crashed a car through a gate on the perimeter of Southwest Florida International Airport on Tuesday night.
Airport police did say security plans will be re-evaluated to determine whether changes are necessary.
Minutes after the incident began, a Lee County Port Authority police officer began chasing the car.
The quick response is part of the airport's security plan, said Maj. Rick Silverthorn, of the Port Authority police department at the airport.
"Our system worked exactly like it was supposed to do," Silverthorn said. "No one was hurt."
Port Authority reports show that Jack Brems, 34, of 18540 Eastshore Drive in San Carlos Park, slammed through a gate and onto the runway while planes were waiting to depart. Brems faces six charges, including fleeing police and reckless driving.
Transportation Security Administration spokesman Christopher White said the airport's response was evaluated Tuesday night.
"We just want to make sure the airport followed their procedures," he said. "We are confident that they did everything right."
White's agency approves security plans and policies for airports across the country and ensures they are followed.
"Perimeter security is a major issue for the TSA," White said. "Airports have to be ready to respond when it occurs."
White said the TSA isn't involved in responding to crimes, only in making sure the security plan is in place and working properly.
On Wednesday morning, a judge denied Brems bail, and he is being held at Lee County Jail.
In a seven-minute chase with speeds reaching 130 mph, Port Authority officer John Millican tried to keep Brems' car away from planes on the runway, Silverthorn said.
"Our intent was to try to keep him from hitting the aircraft," he said. "Our officer prevented him from doing that."
Silverthorn said Port Authority officers are trained to react in many emergency situations.
"We try to anticipate appropriate responses, and I think we put one forward."
Before Tuesday night's incident, Brems had been chased by the Lee County Sheriff's Department after a domestic dispute involving his mother.
Silverthorn said he doesn't know whether pilots train for such a breach, but an incident such as Tuesday night's is rare.
"Even nationwide, there's probably only been two or three of these types of incidences," he said. "No one has ever intentionally crashed into one of our gates."
Airport police didn't know about the breach immediately, they said, because the gate in question only has a posted sign that indicates it's a secure area and only authorized persons and vehicles are allowed.
"There are several signs — no trespassing, restricted area, requires badges," Silverthorn said.
The gate opens when an authorized person scans a badge.
Airport police learned a vehicle was on the runway when a microwave security beam alarm went off.
After Brems broke through the gate, reports said, an officer stayed in pursuit of the car, even as it drove near a Southwest Airlines jet taking off and later beneath the wing of a USA3000 preparing for takeoff.
Brems crashed into a pond, and officers arrested him without further incident.
After the chase, officers realized Brems had entered the runway by crashing through Gate 68A, a steel security gate. The gate was manned by an officer until it could be repaired.
Airport officials halted flight activity for about 10 minutes. The USA3000 flight was delayed about 25 minutes.
Airport spokeswoman Susan Sanders said that in one incident more than seven years ago, a woman drove through the security gate after an authorized person entered. There have been no other problems, she said.
Silverthorn said the Port Authority would evaluate the security breach and response to see whether changes need to be made. He would not elaborate because of security issues.
"I expect we'll make some adjustment," he said. "I don't know that you can make a gate that can open and close that could withstand a vehicle."
Sanders said Brems had to be going fast to break through the steel security gate, which landed 75 feet from where it was hit.
"Those gates aren't easily breachable," she said.
The only problem found after the chase was that surveillance videos did not activate properly. So there is no video of the incident.
"There was a malfunction in the security cameras. We're getting that addressed," Silverthorn said.
There were no cameras in the police car that chased Brems.
"We don't pursue many people," he said.
The security plan for the airport is being "constantly evaluated," Silverthorn said.