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Area man caught up in LAX ‘problem’

November 2, 2013
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN , Salem News

LOS ANGELES - John Butera of New Waterford was seated in 11-C on US Airways flight 1993 and believed this had been a routine landing at Los Angeles International Airport, until flight officials said there was a delay.

Offering no further details, officials told passengers they would need to remain in their seats while they addressed a "security problem," he said.

He learned the "problem" was a shooting after calling his sister and talking to other passengers who also used their phones to communicate with others.

"Everyone jumped on their phones to see what was going on," he said.

After seven hours of traveling, Butera would spend another four hours and 45 minutes in 11-C. During that time he got to know some of the passengers.

He said the delay caused the woman seated next to him to miss her sister's wedding rehearsal, and she was the maid of honor.

Despite the seriousness of the situation the atmosphere on the plane was "really calm," he said. So calm, in fact, he was able to catch up on some sleep and read a book.

The extra sleep was needed, as he had been up since early that morning.

Butera said he left his New Waterford home at 3 a.m. and was in Charlotte, N.C. by 7:45 a.m. He arrived in Los Angeles just two minutes before 10 a.m. - roughly 30 minutes after the shooting of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at Terminal 3.

Flight 1993 was unable to approach the gates since they had been shut down by airport security. Inside the plane Butera and the passengers could hear the sound of helicopters, and could only assume they belonged to news crews or paramedics. They could also hear a crowd of barking dogs encircle the plane, but the dogs were gone after about 10 minutes, he said.

"You always pray you land safely and you never expect that when you do land you're going to be facing this," he said.

Passengers were served a snack of potato chips and pretzels a few hours into the delay, he added.

While he was upset over the loss of the TSA agent's life he was thankful there weren't any more deaths.

"This guy not only killed somebody but just impacted the lives of millions of people ... It's extremely, extremely sad that one man has just done this to literally millions of people. They closed Highway 101 out here. That's like 'the road' in Los Angeles," he said.

The 1,540-mile expanse of road runs through California, Oregon and Washington and is a major highway connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

As of 7 p.m. Butera was still at the airport attempting to find a ride to a nearby Hertz rental car.

"Once we got off the plane there was a minor wait. They had us in a holding pattern before they let us go down to security, the baggage claim and rental car area. There were no taxi cabs, no rental car buses available. I'm sitting here watching, literally, hundreds of people walking out of the Los Angeles airport," he said.

The scraping of luggage wheels along the ground as they walked could be heard while Butera relayed details over the phone to the newspaper while seated on a curb just outside the airport.

"Everyone is just going past me," he said.

Butera arrived in Los Angeles in preparation for the Rose Bowl, which he will be covering for Fox Sports as a freelance sports statistician.

"(It is) always a special thrill to do a game in the Rose Bowl. Hopefully by tomorrow this will be put behind us and we can roll from there," he said.

The New York Times identified the shooter as Paul Ciancia, 23. He reportedly used an assault rifle on the TSA officer and according to CNN, was carrying materials expressing anti-government sentiments.

LAX kept passengers and the public updated via its Twitter feed throughout the day and into the evening, including confirmation of the shooter's identify as Paul Anthony Ciancia, a U.S. Citizen.

At 8:11 p.m. the most recent Tweet said the central terminal area was still closed.

LAX is reportedly one of the six busiest airports in the world, according to June 18 statistics available on the airport's website

kschwendeman@mojonews.com

 
 

 

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