Teen found hiding in wheel well of a jet at the airport
SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake International Airport Police say a teenager, who fled from a traffic stop, was found hiding in the wheel well of an airliner early Friday morning.
Chief Craig Vargo said an officer stopped a car along Wright Brothers Drive around 10:30 Thursday evening. Inside the car, he said the officer found two 16-year-old boys. Vargo said when the officer asked the teens to get out, the passenger complied, but the driver took off. Police searched for the car, but could not find it. They later discovered it had been stolen around 9:30 p.m. Police said they identified who the driver was and took the passenger to a juvenile detention center.
Around 4:30 Friday morning, police got a call from a worker at the SkyWest Airlines maintenance hangar who said he had found the teen in the wheel well of a regional jet.
“Early this morning while performing usual aircraft inspections on the airport tarmac, SkyWest employees discovered an individual in the wheel well of a parked aircraft. Our employees responded quickly and appropriately to detain the individual and immediately alerted authorities,” read a release from SkyWest Airlines.
“As long as the plane’s not moving, it’s not real dangerous, but obviously we’ve seen things in the past where people have got up into those wheel wells, not realizing they can suffocate, they can be crushed. All kinds of things could happen,” Vargo said.
Police took the teen into custody and contacted the FBI. Vargo said he could face federal charges. Now, police are trying to figure out how the teen got onto the airport grounds undetected.
“It’s basically jumping a perimeter fence, jumping a chain link fence that has barbed wire on top. We do have regular patrols in those areas as well as some camera footage,” Vargo said.
After police took the teen into custody, they did an inspection to be sure nothing was damaged in the incident.
“The mechanics, the airline employees, we’re asking them to check their equipment to see if there’s anything wrong with it. We also had an explosive detection team go over there, so we had a K-9 that completely swept the area and the aircraft, plus the airport police and the airport operations folks did a complete examination of the perimeter,” Vargo said.
Police said the teens were from California and had come to Utah to go to a treatment center, but had decided to leave. They said they found the stolen vehicle and returned it to its owner.
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