N.Y. authorities probe case of trio who washed ashore
MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
NEW YORK, Aug. 12 — Authorities were investigating the case of three young boaters whose raft washed ashore near John F. Kennedy International Airport over the weekend, breaching security to wander around for a mile near a runway.
THE BOATERS, a 21-year-old man and two 13-year-old boys, became lost on their inflatable fishing raft after a rainstorm Sunday night and floated into Jamaica Bay, authorities said.
“It got rough out there, and the waves started blowing the boat towards the airport,” Joel Phaggoo, one of the lost trio, told WABC-TV.
They anchored off an active runway and wandered on runways and taxiways as planes departed and arrived before they walked to a police garage, where they told authorities they were lost.
The three were questioned and released after police found their boat and their fishing poles along the airport’s 10-mile perimeter, Pasquale Difulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, told NBC News affiliate WNBC-TV.
‘COULD HAVE CAUSED A LOT OF DAMAGE’
Phaggoo told WABC: “For somebody up to no good, they could have caused a lot of damage, because the planes were taking off and landing maybe about 400 feet from us. ... We got there by accident, but it wouldn’t be hard for somebody who wanted to intentionally be there to get there.”
Security measures were immediately stepped up at the airport after the incident. “The fact they were able to do this is of great concern to us,” Difulco said.
Alan Hicks, another Port Authority spokesman, told The Associated Press that an investigation was examining patrol procedures and supervision.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, said the incident had been overblown. “They were hardly terrorists,” he told reporters at a news conference to unveil a local flood control system.
Security at JFK has become an increasing concern since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when 37 Port Authority police officers died. The department now has the highest number of officers and commanders in its history, Difulco said.
In February, airport officials began enforcing a rule that banned public parking within 300 feet of any terminal buildings. Additional passenger screening and random car searches were also started at Kennedy.