After the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale’s airport, authorities have an unusual problem: More than 20,000 pieces of personal items were abandoned on the scene, leaving passengers desperate to retrieve their luggage, cellphones and purses.
On Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Scott did his best to find four suitcases.
Passengers Ronald Mackey and Charod Oliphant of Maryland saw the governor walking through Terminal 2 after a press conference and approached him.
“I just explained to the governor my frustration with the process of finding my bag,” said Mackey, who flew to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday for a Caribbean cruise.
Mackey said he was getting the run-around from Delta representatives about their four bags, which were filled with warm-weather clothes for their trip — until he handed the phone to the governor.
“They told me it was a crime scene and it would be at least three or four days before they release our bags,” Mackey said.
Scott took the phone and spoke with a Delta rep as he leaned against a railing near several potted plants.
After an unexpected conversation with the governor, a Delta rep said she would arrange to have Mackey and Oliphant’s bags sent to Aruba, their first port of call — and would approve an allowance for them to buy toiletries and undergarments.
“I think they would have done that anyway,” Oliphant said, “but [talking with the governor] gave them more incentive.”
The men flew into Fort Lauderdale Friday with their wives during the chaos of a shooting that killed five people. After rumors spread about a second shooter, airport staff helped barricade them and other panicked passengers into a security office.
Several hours later, “a SWAT team came and got us,” Oliphant said. “It was a harrowing experience. There were children, women, senior citizens.”
Their bags never made it off the plane.
Following his conversation with the two weary travelers, Gov. Scott acknowledged that tracking down baggage piece by piece was no easy task.
“There’s a lot of luggage to try to get to people and it’s very difficult,” he said. “I am going to see what I can do.”