NEW YORK – A man who left Haiti and flew to the U.S. following the earthquake opened a restricted door at a busy terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, setting off an alarm that led to the evacuation of hundreds of travelers, officials said.
The breach delayed dozens of flights and caused headaches for travelers who had to exit the terminal and wait for hours as police swept through the building, the second such incident at a New York-area airport this month. The passengers at JFK were then shepherded through additional screening.
The man, Jules Paul Bouloute, 57, is of Haitian descent but lives in Brooklyn, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport. He was arrested on a charge of criminal trespass.
Bouloute was in Haiti during Tuesday’s earthquake but took a flight on Saturday from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Orlando, Fla., where he caught a connecting flight to New York City, Coleman said.
It wasn’t immediately clear where Bouloute was when the earthquake struck, and it’s unclear how or when he got from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, Coleman said.
Bouloute was expected to be arraigned today in Queens.
Authorities earlier said the security breach was caused by a passenger who was exiting Kennedy’s Terminal 8 and opened a door that was supposed to be used only by airport workers.
Coleman said security cameras recorded the incident just before 3:30 p.m. A similar incident happened two weeks ago at a New York-area airport: A security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Jan. 3 forced passengers to be re-screened.
Authorities were initially unsure Saturday whether the person had been coming or going from the JFK terminal, and they evacuated the secure areas of the building while they investigated. The Transportation Security Administration said its agents and Port Authority police were involved in the investigation.
People waiting to get on their flights said they were dumbfounded that someone could just walk through a restricted door at the airport.
“They have such big signs, I don’t know how you can miss that,” Teijo Niemela, of Lambertville, N.J., said as he waited in a security line for a delayed flight to Helsinki. “That makes me angry about the whole system. We pay a lot of money because of someone’s mistakes.”
Judy Erickson, a hairdresser who was waiting to get on a flight to Los Angeles, also said she was baffled by how easy it was for the passenger to go into a restricted area. “All those doors that you’re not supposed to go through should have a guard or security,” she said.
Terminal 8 handles both domestic and international flights for American Airlines.