A 21-year-old Mesa woman was "out of her senses" when she crashed her car carrying her 2-month-old through a gate and onto a runway at Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport late Thursday night, according to Phoenix police.
Sgt. Trent Crump said Koko Nicole Anderson was unaware of her location and probably didn't know she had her son in her car during the incident. He said Anderson had a level of impairment that was potentially caused by drugs. He said there was no indication of alcohol use.
[ORIGINAL STORY: Not cleared for takeoff: Woman, child drive onto Sky Harbor runway]
Anderson drove a Saturn sedan through gate where employees were conducting a routine test on the gate's security shortly after 9:30 p.m., said Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director at Sky Harbor.
Ostreicher said that gates are often slightly ajar while the tests are being conducted, and that Anderson drove through an area not considered "secured" before reaching the gate.
Crump said Anderson had to drive her car into the gate more than once to break through into the secured area. Employees working on the gate reported the breach immediately and Phoenix police officers were able to catch up to her immediately as she drove on the runway.
Police were able to cause Anderson to lose control of her car and it came to rest on a fence. Neither Anderson nor her child were injured, and Crump said the baby was correctly belted in to a safety seat. The child was turned over to family members, Crump said.
Ostreicher said the airport's security system worked properly.
"What was supposed to happen, happened," Ostreicher said of the multi-layer security system. "She was able to break through the first layer, but not the ninth, 10th or 20th layer."
Ostreicher said that a hydraulic arm was raised during the testing, and if it had been lowered the chances of the car breaching the game were slim to none. She said there is always someone watching what is going on around the routine maintenance.
Police were not aware where Anderson had been before coming to the airport, but security cameras first caught her around 9:35 a.m. trying to enter the East Economy parking lot through an exit lane and damaged the hydraulic arm. Crump said Anderson drove around the lot and then rammed through a pay gate again to leave.
Anderson made her way to the gate at the runway and rammed it, backed up and rammed it again.
She was immediately taken into custody after her car came to rest and gave officers "statements that made no sense at all," Crump said.
Anderson was charged with aggravated DUI due to a person under 15 years old being in the car, and with felony criminal damage monetary damages exceeded $10,000, Crump said.
Crump said police don't believe Anderson set out to harm anyone and attributed her actions to "intoxication and poor decision making."
He said a drug recognition expert had been called to the scene and that blood and urine tests would be conducted to determine what caused her behavior. "I don't think it was from alcohol," Crump said.
Ostreicher said the Federal Aviation Administration was immediately notified and all air traffic was immediately suspended. She said no one was ever in danger during the incident because of the time of night and limited activity. She said there were not disruptions to air traffic.
Airport officials are "always looking for ways to improve" the security system, but that she was "very satisfied" with the security in place.
Phoenix-Sky Harbor received $10 million from the federal government over recent years for security enhancements, Ostreicher said.
This is the third breach of a fence since 2003. In 2003, two teenagers in a stolen car crashed through a fence and drove on to the airfield, and in 2005 a man in a stolen truck crashed through a fence and drove past passenger planes on a taxi runway. He delayed at least 50 flights before being apprehended.
She said if a terrorist wanted to do the same thing, that person could, but that there would be alarms set off and airport personnel would be monitoring in the same manner as Thursday.
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