Florida shooting survivors stranded after losing luggage and IDs in the chaos
Temporary IDs issued after travellers lose 25,000 items in Fort Lauderdale airport rampage
Dan and Janice Kovacs and their two children were passing through airport security when the gunfire erupted. They were shoeless — with wallets, passports and carry-on items chugging along a conveyer belt — when they sprang into the mass of people running to safety.
Now the Vancouver family are among the stranded travellers at Fort Lauderdale trying to recover what the airport director says are 25,000 pieces of luggage, cellphones and other belongings separated from their owners during Friday's shooting rampage.
"We have no IDs, we have no passports, no money," Janice, 39, said Saturday afternoon, wearing sandals borrowed from a brother-in-law. "We just had to leave our stuff and run."
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"All our stuff is being processed. We might not even get that until Monday. I have an 11-year-old who is freaking out. This has been traumatic for her," she said.
The shooting Friday afternoon, which killed five people and wounded six, also stranded about 12,000 outgoing and incoming travellers, many returning from cruises or arriving ahead of the usual Saturday departures of the massive ships based in the tourism hub's Port Everglades terminal.
Flights had resumed at the Fort Lauderdale airport after the bloodshed. The terminal where the shooting happened remained closed on Saturday, but has since reopened.
Crews began to clean up the site of the crime Sunday.
Temporary IDs being issued
Some travellers were kept on planes for more than seven hours while police put the airport on lockdown; others scrambled to protected corners or were hustled out onto the tarmac. The Kovacs, on the way back from a Caribbean cruise, went out onto that rough surface barefoot.
The Florida Highway Patrol sent computer-equipped buses to the airport Saturday afternoon to issue temporary ID cards to help travellers get out of state and even abroad. "We are doing what we can to help," Sgt. Mark Wysocki said.
Sydney Rivera, a 21-year-old Purdue University student, received a temporary Florida identification card that is nearly identical to the state's driver's license. On Friday, she had been about to board a flight home to Indianapolis in another terminal when people scattered over false fears of a second shooter.
"This will make it a lot easier to get through security," Rivera said as she rushed to finally catch a flight.
Gov. Rick Scott said cruise ship companies were asked to accept travellers with provisional IDs. Once authorities began allowing travellers to depart the airport Friday evening, buses took thousands of them to the cruise terminal.
Airport spokesman Greg Meyer said most bags won't be available until Monday. The airport hired an outside firm to collect discarded bags and sort them by where they were found so they can be identified by their owners. Those with lost luggage were told to call a toll-free number.
Shooting video emerges
Meanwhile video has emerged that appears to show the initial seconds of the deadly shooting. The 20-second recording shows a man walking through the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale airport. The man then pulls a handgun from his waistband, starts firing and runs.
The footage first appeared on the website TMZ, which does not say where it obtained the video. However, it appears to be from a surveillance camera.
Iraq war veteran Esteban Santiago, 26, was charged with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death — which carries a maximum punishment of execution — as well as weapons charges.
Authorities said during a news conference that they had interviewed roughly 175 people, including a lengthy interrogation with a co-operative Santiago, who is a former National Guard soldier from Alaska.
Canadian family describes chaotic scene
Richard Lanbry, his wife and 15-year-old daughter were about to board a plane home for Montreal when the shooting began. Amid the commotion, he was separated from the other two and frantically searched for them for about an hour.
"I was pushed down, my wife was pushed down too. It was violent ... people screaming, people crying, old and young. It was very scary," said the 61-year-old, who was vacationing in Pompano Beach.
On top of that, they now have no luggage, no keys to their home and no coats or sweaters to wear once they arrive in chilly Montreal, only the T-shirts they were wearing the day before.
Larry and Joy Edwards were about to board their flight home to Columbus, Ohio, after a Caribbean cruise. They ran out the skyway and downstairs onto the tarmac, where they were told to drop their carry-on bags and dash out to the runway. They eventually were taken to a hangar and bused to Port Everglades. That's where they spent most of the night.
"The Red Cross came. They gave us food and blankets and pillows. Everybody did what they could," Joy Edwards said.
At 4:30 a.m., they were bused to a Miami motel. They had come back to the airport in an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve their luggage, which contained their passports, medicine and other essentials.
Larry Edwards, a retired electric lineman, said they won't be able to get home until Monday and pointed to the clothes they had put on Friday morning.
"All we have is this and our smelly selves," he said.
Cruise passengers offered counselling
Holland America Cruise line operates many of the massive ships that typically set out around the weekend from the tourism hub's Port Everglades terminal. The company is offering free counselling via a hotline run by emergency management company Empathia on at least two of its ships — one that departed Friday night and another that left Saturday, said company spokeswoman Sally Andrews.
"The staff are being very attentive to how folks are feeling on board," Andrews said.