Car Crash Followed by Prank Call at L.A. Airport Cause Panic

Last month's shooting at LAX has put the whole airport on edge. Late Friday, two separate incidents took place at terminals 5 and 4 of the Los Angeles International Airport that caused mass chaos and over 2,000 people to be evacuated. The first was when a woman lost control of her car, crashing it and producing loud noises that panicked people inside the terminal. Soon after, a crank caller called in to report a gunman in terminal 4. The result was a wide-scale response that involved the evacuation of the terminals, and flights being delayed at one of the country's busiest airports.

Soon after 7:30 p.m. Friday, a woman lost control of her SUV and hit another woman, after which she crashed into a parking garage, prompting passengers to contact airport police to say that shots were fired at terminal 5. The officials investigated the situation, and decided that the passengers had mistaken the loud noises produced from the multiple-vehicle accident on the roadway for gunshots.

"Apparently there was a very loud crash. People inside the terminal did not know what was happening. Some people panicked and they self-evacuated from the terminal," reported KCAL9's Derek Bell.

The woman was reportedly severely injured, as was the pedestrian she hit. "A driver had a medical emergency, causing her to lose control of the vehicle," said the airport police chief, Patrick M. Gannon. "She has been transported to a local hospital."

But then, at roughly the same time, an anonymous caller contacted airport police to say there was a man with a firearm at terminal 4 — the response was immediate, with police fully evacuating the terminal and storming in with guns in order to investigate the situation, but no gunman was found. "We did not find anybody there with a gun. In an overabundance of caution, we evacuated terminal 4," Gannon said. "We had great cooperation with our passengers."

The police confirmed that no shots had been fired, and that the call was "probably a prank." The chaos disrupted flight operations and over 2,000 travelers were evacuated. Dozens of flights were delayed and still more were diverted from the airport entirely. Terminal 4 had now been confirmed safe, however.

Much of the panic was driven by fears of a repeat of the November 1 shooting spree at LAX, which left one security worker dead, as well as two TSA officers and another two civilian bystanders injured. The gunman, Paul Ciancia, was allegedly targeting the TSA and their security policies; he is currently charged with murder. And as recently as July of 2002, another gunman opened fire at the airport’s El Al ticket counter, killing a bystander and an airline employee, before he was fatally shot by police.