SANTA ANA (CNS) - A man suspected of breaching security and stealing a vehicle at John Wayne Airport, causing passengers to be evacuated and incoming flights held on runways for several hours, was in custody today, authorities said.
An airport operations employee contacted a man in a secure area of the airfield where only airport employees should be at approximately 5:30 p.m. Friday, an Orange County Sheriff's Department official said.
The man took control of an airport vehicle and drove it onto the airfield outside Terminal C. He stopped the vehicle near a gate and attempted to access a secure area of the terminal, the official said.
The emergency response system was activated and the terminal placed on lockdown and evacuated at approximately 6 p.m. A thorough sweep of the terminal and airfield was conducted, with Orange County Sheriff's Department Air Support assisting with the search, the official said.
The Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center and Orange County Fire Authority responded to assist, the official said.
The man was later located in the ceiling on the non-secure side of the terminal and taken into custody without further incident, the official said.
Elizabeth Robins, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas, said her plane landed at 6:30 p.m. and she and her fellow passengers were forced to wait for two hours while deputies searched from the suspects.
``Glad everyone is safe, and for how Southwest flight attendants kept us entertained while we waited,'' Robins, who lives in Washington D.C., told The Orange County Register. ``Airplane staff handled the event well and efficiently.''
Flight operations had resumed by 8:30 p.m and sheriff's officials later confirmed the suspect was in custody. He was booked into Orange County Jail, and the investigation was continuing to determine how the man entered the airfield. His name has not been released.