Broward County

‘We’re just scared half to death,’ a woman tells 911 after airport shooting

People huddled on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Jan. 6, 2017, after a shooter opened fire. Esteban Santiago has been charged in the deaths of five people and wounding of six others.
People huddled on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Jan. 6, 2017, after a shooter opened fire. Esteban Santiago has been charged in the deaths of five people and wounding of six others. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Dozens of frightened Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport employees, airline pilots, crew members and travelers frantically called 911 after a man opened fire in Terminal 2 nearly four weeks ago.

“We’re stuck in Fort Lauderdale briefing room,” a man said in a 911 recording of Delta pilots and flight attendants, released Tuesday by the Broward Sheriff’s Office. “There’s pandemonium going on with guns drawn outside. We can’t go outside because we’re scared that something is happening.”

BSO released the first batch of 10 calls totaling 42 minutes that came in after the shooting began on the afternoon of Jan. 6. Esteban Santiago, a troubled Army combat veteran, is accused of shooting and killing five people and injuring six in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2. The shooting caused chaos at the airport and shut it down for the day.

The calls, which BSO said was a “sampling,” were ones that were “not directly related” to the shooting. There are at least 100 more similar calls, BSO said.

According to BSO, there are 25 other calls directly related to the shooting and they are part of the FBI’s investigation. Fourteen of those calls have not been released by the FBI, BSO said. There are 11 calls that BSO said it would release in the “near future,’’ although it didn’t specify an exact time.

Santiago, who could face the death penalty, on Monday pleaded not guilty to 22 counts, including charges related to the deaths of the five people and the injuries of the six others.

During the chaos at the airport, callers flooded BSO’s 911 line. Many did not know what was happening. Terminal 2 houses Delta Air Lines and Air Canada, with Delta accounting for the majority of gates.

Diane Haggerty, witnessed the shooting that killed five people at Fort Lauderdale International Airport last Friday, she recounts the events during a memorial service at Terminal 2 where the incident took place.

One woman tried to describe the chaos to the dispatcher: “There are alarms going off. Someone screamed, ‘He had a gun.’ 

People from other terminals also called.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” a woman with a shaky voice said to a dispatcher as she hid in a janitor’s closet in Terminal 3 with seven other people. “I left the store and ran in here.”

The dispatcher tried to calm her down: “Just stay in a safe location.”

Dispatchers told callers that if they were in a secure location, with a locked door, then they should stay put. Dispatchers initially didn’t know what was going on. By the end of the recordings, they told callers there were reports of a shooting.

“We need to know what we are supposed to be doing,” said a woman who was with a group of Delta employees in the crew lounge in Terminal 2. “We’re just scared half to death.”

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