SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – The teenage stowaway who flew in the wheel well of a jet from San Jose to Hawaii last spring is far from the only person who got past the security fences that protect California’s busiest airports.
There have been at least 82 incidents in which people reached the airfields of the international airports serving San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego between January 2004 and January 2015, according to an Associated Press investigation.
Nationally, there have been at least 268 perimeter security breaches at 31 major U.S. airports, AP found. Some involved fence-jumpers taking shortcuts or looking to hop flights, others intoxicated drivers crashing through barriers. None was deemed terrorism-related.
Airports say breaches are relatively rare. Security measures typically include fences, surveillance cameras and patrols, but there are gaps. Not all of the miles of fences are routinely patrolled or covered by video surveillance.
San Francisco International had the most breaches in the analysis, with 37; Los Angeles International ranked third nationally, with 24; San Jose was fifth with 18; San Diego reported three.
While Yahya Abdi — the boy who last April survived the Maui flight — may be California’s most famous airport intruder, he is not the most prolific.
Eight times between April 2012 and March 2013, a mentally ill homeless man named Christopher McGrath got over the chain links that separate the public from the planes at Los Angeles International. Once he hid for hours before being discovered.
Twice he reached the stairs leading to a jet parked at a terminal — his goal to persuade pilots to give him a ride to Australia, New Zealand or Hawaii, where he wanted to start a new life.
“I’d suggest LAX do a better job with putting up security fences,” McGrath wrote in an email from federal prison, where he is being treated after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity on federal charges.
LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon said McGrath was helpful in the sense he exposed vulnerabilities that the airport has since fixed.
“He went over barbed wire that if you and I tried to get over, you’d be sliced and diced. But for some reason or another in his state, he was able to get over,” Gannon said. “He seemed to be like a cat, he could fall and land on his feet and not be injured.”
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