Man found dead inside plane engine after breaching security at Salt Lake airport

Jan 2, 2024, 5:59 AM | Updated: Jan 3, 2024, 12:39 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A 30-year-old man was found dead inside an airplane’s engine Monday night at the Salt Lake City International Airport after police say he was able to make his way onto the tarmac.

On Tuesday, the Salt Lake Police Department identified the man as Kyler Efinger of Park City, who had a ticket to board a flight to Denver, Colorado.

The investigation began Monday when a store manager contacted the airport’s control center at 9:52 p.m. to report a “disturbance involving a passenger” on the secured side of the terminal, according to Salt Lake police.

Details on which store and what the passenger was doing were not available at press time.

According to the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, Efinger used an emergency exit door to access the airfield and ran to the south end of the airport’s west runway, where de-icing operations were underway.

At the same time, Delta flight 2348 from Salt Lake City to San Francisco — an Airbus A220-100 aircraft — was scheduled to depart at 9:30 p.m. Monday.

a grounded airplane and emrgency vehicles

Emergency vehicles respond to an airplane at the Salt Lake International Airport on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, after a man gained access to the airfield. (Courtesy Kailee Nelson)

The flight, with 95 passengers, two pilots, and three flight attendants on board, was eventually forced to return to the gate, and the flight was canceled because Efinger was on the tarmac at the de-ice pad, according to a statement from Delta Air Lines. The passengers were later rebooked on other flights.

“As nothing is more important than the safety and security of our customers and people, Delta is fully cooperating with all aviation authority and law enforcement investigations,” Delta said in it’s statement.

Corey Buckley, a passenger on the cancelled Delta flight, said the plane was making its way over to be de-iced when it stopped suddenly.

“This was just like a rolling, like a screech to a halt like a brake. The pilot came on the (intercom) and said there was some sort of security event and there was a man who they were looking for on the tarmac surrounding us. What seemed like a million emergency vehicles and police vehicles came screaming to the aircraft,” Buckley said.


At approximately 10:08 p.m., police and airport employees located the man inside the engine of the San Francisco-bound plane.

Kailee Nelson watched from her window seat on another airplane in the deicing are. She said she saw police cars speed down the runway. She said a group of people gathered around a body lying on the ground, underneath the other airplane’s engine.

“As a nurse I know what it looks like when people are doing compressions I looked out the window and I zoomed in, I could see somebody going up and down and doing compressions,” Nelson said.

Brent Weisberg, a spokesman with SLCPD, said it was initially reported that the engines were shut off when the man was located.

It was later clarified that officers had immediately requested air traffic controllers to shut down the engines, but Weisberg said that the engines “were still rotating, but the specific stage of the engine’s operation remains under investigation.”

“After they did compressions, they put his body into an ambulance and the ambulance didn’t drive away, and I know that if that happens, then they’re no longer living,” Nelson said. “I was like, this is crazy, I just watched somebody die and nobody else around me knows that somebody just died.”

According to police’s timeline, officers found Efinger in the engine’s intake cowling about 12 minutes after he passed through the emergency exit.

“It’s a big airport and there’s a lot of people coming in and out and I don’t know how they don’t have more security breaches,” Nelson said. “There’s always a question of what could you do better.”

She said the incident was bizarre and said she’s sorry for Efinger’s family.

“It kind of makes you wonder what happened leading up to that,” Nelson said.

“Based on the officers’ training and experience and their observation, they did believe that there had been some indicators that the use of naloxone may have been appropriate,” Weisberg said. “Naloxone is used to reverse and stop the effects of an opiate overdose and despite the administration and other life-saving efforts, including CPR, the man did die on scene.”

Weisberg said that a medical examiner will perform a full toxicology report to determine the cause of death.
Airport officials said they are working with the Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, Salt Lake City police and Transportation Security Administration to investigate events Monday night.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, the SLCPD issued a statement that included more details and a timeline, due to the public’s interest in events:

Despite the lifesaving efforts, the man died on scene. Police said that no further information is expected to be released pending the autopsy.


  • 9:56 p.m., dispatchers informed SLCPD officers that the man had passed through an emergency exit inside the terminal. SLCPD officers began heading to the man’s last known location and arrived approximately one minute later and started checking the area on foot.
  • 9:57 p.m., dispatchers provided SLCPD officers a clothing description of the man.
  • 9:59 p.m., SLCPD officers advised they had checked the man’s last known location but could not find him. SLCPD officers continued their search.
  • 10:02 p.m., dispatchers provided updated information on the man’s location.
  • 10:03 p.m., dispatchers informed SLCPD officers of the man’s identity based on preliminary information gathered from airport officials.
  • 10:04 p.m., SLCPD officers received information from airport employees that a pilot reported seeing the man.
  • 10:05 p.m., SLCPD officers requested the FAA’s air traffic control tower be notified of the incident.
  • 10:06 p.m., SLCPD officers and Airport Operations located personal items, including clothing and shoes, on one of the airport’s runways.
  • 10:07 p.m., dispatchers informed SLCPD officers that the man was at one of the airport’s deicing pads.
  • 10:08 p.m., dispatchers informed SLCPD officers the man was underneath an aircraft and had accessed the engine. SLCPD officers requested FAA air traffic controllers notify the pilot to shut down the aircraft’s engines.
  • 10:08 p.m., SLCPD officers arrived and found the man unconscious partially inside a wing-mounted engine of an occupied commercial aircraft on the deicing pad. The aircraft’s engines were rotating. The specific stage of engine operation remains under investigation.
  • 10:09 p.m., SLCPD officers and Airport Operations pulled the man from the engine’s intake cowling, secured the scene, began lifesaving efforts, and requested emergency medical services.
  • 10:15 p.m., lifesaving efforts, including CPR and the administration of naloxone, continued.

Contributing: Pat Reavy, KSL.com

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Man found dead inside plane engine after breaching security at Salt Lake airport