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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Seven months after a mass shooting at a Fort Lauderdale airport, authorities and airport officials talked publicly about an independent review on how it was handled.
It was January 6, 2017, when Esteban Santiago is accused of opening fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at terminal 2’s baggage claim. After firing off 14 rounds, 5 people were killed and 6 injured.
An hour and a half later, there were false reports of gunfire. Panic spread throughout the airport and parking garages sending people running for their lives.
That lead to chaos. Not only were there tens of thousands of panicked passengers on the move, more than 26-hundred law officers from all over South Florida arrived to help.
On Tuesday, members of the sheriff’s office, airport and county got a closed-door briefing from independent consultants about what worked and what didn’t in response to the chaos. Only people with high security clearance were allowed in the meeting at the Broward County Governmental Center.
“Passengers self-evacuated from all the terminal facilities in just minutes. Passengers scattered in all directions both pre and post security including the air operations area, across runways and taxi ways,” said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport CEO Mark Gale.
While the initial response went well, there were problems to follow – mostly after the second scare.
A Broward Sheriff’s Office internal report found big problems with communication that day. It found outdated radios made it difficult for officers to communicate.
The report also faulted BSO for how it handled the immediate aftermath.
“This was an escape. This was a mass escape. This was over 10,000 people running for their lives,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
A report also noted confusion with armed masked SWAT members running through the airport potentially further traumatizing passengers.
The independent observers noted a, “Unified Command was never established causing confusion as to who was in charge.”
Their report went on to say, “Due to the lack of Unified Command, a common operating picture was never developed resulting in a lack of information regarding resource needs and disjointed, misinformed and conflicting mission development.”
Sheriff Israel takes an exception.
“People don’t have the right to their own set of facts. Mark and I were out there with the FBI. We spent 90 percent of the time together. We were in the EOC together. It was clearly unified command. The right hand knew where the left hand was going,” said Sheriff Israel.
The report also noted some of the 2,000 responding officers from around South Florida left cruisers parked all over the place leaving an impassable parking lot behind.
The independent review is expected to help BSO as well as the airport figure out what worked and didn’t work on that chaotic day.
The report recommends training and exercises including a training course for all incident commanders, to conduct joint BSO and airport training and exercises regarding unified command and joint training for airport, Port Everglades and emergency managers.