Hundreds of those who fled the Oct. 1 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip found safety, medical care and a ride after breaching the perimeter of McCarran International Airport.
Airport spokeswoman Christine Crews said that workers reported seeing about 300 people, perhaps more, enter airport grounds shortly after the shooting. Dozens of personnel responded quickly, she said, and two nearby runways were shut down within minutes.
“Fairly immediately, we had people on the scene” because of the security measures in place, Crews said.
She said the events do not fit into the typical airport breach, where there is a security risk to the airport and several layers of protection to deal with it.
“Their focus quickly shifted,” Crews said of the airport’s workers. “There wasn’t a threat to the airport that needed to be mitigated. There was a threat to these people that needed to be mitigated.”
About a dozen airport shuttles transported people from the airport to UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center, which became the designated evacuation site. Airport shuttles also picked up people who were stranded at certain parts of the Strip.
Some gunshot victims were treated by emergency medical technicians at a fire station in the middle of the airfield, Crews said. These stations are required for airports of this size.
Allegiant Airlines has a 24-hour maintenance staff, and workers stepped forward to shelter those seeking safety, offering water and a place to charge cellphones, Crews said. Atlantic Aviation, a private hangar, also sheltered those who fled the shooting, Crews said.
All entities at the airport share the responsibility for security, Crews said. Once they realized there was no threat to the airport, they stepped up to help terrified and injured people who were willing to flee to it to find safety.
“People were climbing over coiled razor wire because what was behind them was more frightening,” Crews said.
Transportation Safety Administration regional spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said that airport security is a multilayered effort and that what happened on Oct. 1 was unique. TSA has the authority to levy civil penalties for breaches, ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, she said. Fines can be levied against entities as well as individuals, Dankers said.
“Every event is reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “The events of last weekend are under review, and TSA has no further comment on the status.”
“The threat to these people was greater than a fence fine,” Crews said. “This is certainly unprecedented. It’s a unique situation.”
There have been a couple of shootings that affected airports in recent history. Crews pointed to a shooting at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood (Fla.) International Airport in January, when people ran through secure doors and ended up on the airfield. At Los Angeles International Airport in 2013, a shooting also pushed people into secure areas.
Crews said that generally speaking, Sunday’s events can’t be compared to other perimeter breaches.
“That’s not a security issue,” she said.