- Passengers at New York’s Newark Airport fled onto the tarmac Monday night over fears of an active shooter in the Terminal A building.
- The pandemonium was set off when a flight attendant, suspicious of two men in the terminal, hit an alarm and shouted for passengers to evacuate.
- Police questioned the two men but quickly released them, saying they had done nothing wrong.
- Video posted to Twitter shows luggage and belongings strewn across the terminal, dropped by passengers as they ran.
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Chaos erupted at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday night as rumors of an active shooter situation broke out at the airport.
Passengers waiting for their flights fled through any exit they could, dropping their carry-on luggage and bags as they streamed out onto the airport’s tarmac.
The incident was unfolded when a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, who was walking through Newark’s Terminal A at about 8:30 p.m., asked “a series of questions” of a pair of men sitting by one of the gates.
Initial reports were that the two men fled; however, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which operates the airport — said on Tuesday that the flight attendant was concerned after speaking with the two men, leading her to hit a security alarm and tell people to evacuate the area.
The alarm triggered a panic throughout the terminal, as rumors of an active shooter proliferated almost instantly. 150-200 passengers “self-evacuated ramp-side” onto the tarmac, according to the Port Authority.
Port Authority Police responded and found that there was no active threat. Officers located the two men and questioned them, although they were “found to have done nothing wrong and were released,” the spokesperson said.
Passengers and employees who fled the area were required to go through security screening a second time, the airport said on Twitter, although the spokesperson said that airport operations — meaning departures and arrivals — were not impacted.
The flight attendant, who was scheduled to work a flight to San Francisco, was also questioned by police. She was still being questioned as of late Monday night, the Port Authority told Business Insider.
Alaska Airlines’ scheduled evening flight to San Francisco — AS 325, set to depart at 7:35 p.m. — was cancelled, according to FlightStats.
The chaos added to what was already a challenging Labor Day travel day for passengers. Alongside cancelled flights around the US due to Hurricane Dorian, flights in the New York area were impacted by unrelated heavy thunderstorms on Monday afternoon and night. A traffic management program at Newark due to the storms led to inbound and outbound delays averaging more than two hours. More than 550 flights were delayed and more than 100 were cancelled, according to data from FlightStats.
A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines shared the following statement:
“We sincerely apologize for the experience our guests and other airline passengers had at Newark last night. Alaska Airlines values the safety of our guests as our highest priority. We’re conducting a thorough investigation to determine what occurred. In the meantime, the impacted Alaska guests were provided hotel accommodations for the night and rebooked on a flight departing Newark this morning.”
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