NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Security was increased at New York area airports Friday in wake of a shooting at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport that left at least five people dead and eight injured.
The shooting in Fort Lauderdale happened just before 1 p.m. Thirteen people in total were shot.
The suspect in the shooting has been identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, a native of New Jersey who most recently lived in Anchorage, Alaska.
About 40 nonstop flights go to and from Fort Lauderdale every day.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, passengers flying into LaGuardia Airport from Florida were shocked by the shooting. Several flights from Fort Lauderdale to New York were already in the air when the shooting happened.
Brendan Morales, 17, was traveling alone back to New York after visiting his father.
“He dropped me off and then he left and that’s it, so when we were in the air, I didn’t know anything was happening until we got back here and we had reception again,” said Morales, of the Lower East Side.
He said his mother was frantic.
“She was like, ‘Thank God,’” Morales said.
The proximity to disaster was both a product of timing and circumstance. Aria Rombolakis said it felt like a close call.
“We switched our flight from Miami to Fort Lauderdale,” she said.
“Got teary eyed a little bit, and I just began to pray,” said Sharon Stonewalker of Pompano Beach, Florida. I’m happy we made it out.”
“I just got like a phone call from 5 or 10 people,” added Madeline Rodriguez of Fort Lauderdale. “It was horrible. I’m glad we’re — I guess we made it out of there in time.”
While flights from Fort Lauderdale were suspended following the shooting, passengers coming in from Miami were also on edge.
“I was worried,” said Karina Figueredo of Miami. “There was heightened security at MIA, like visibly, of the cops and everything, so it was scary.”
People seemed to be especially struck as they learned of the shooting while waiting at baggage claim – on the public side of the airport security screen.
A sense of vulnerability was inescapable.
“I just got on a plane with my 8-year-old for her birthday and it could’ve happened to us,” said Michel Montero of Miami.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the Miami passengers were very aware of the scene they left behind in South Florida.
“There was a lot of men dressed up in, you know, army fatigues and they had guns, and they were just standing around,” said Paula Reyes of Queens. “It was harder to get to my plane because there was so much commotion.”
Santiago-Ruiz was a passenger on an Air Canada flight and had a checked handgun in his bag, according to a according to Broward County Commissioner Chip Lamarca.
The Port Authority’s heightened response at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Airport included: Emergency Service Unit strike teams equipped with tactical weapons will conduct anti-terrorism patrols.
PAPD counterterrorism measures also include the presence of armored vehicles and K-9 explosives detection teams.
New York State Police have increased their presence at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports. Increased random bag and checks at the air trains at Kennedy and Newark Liberty international airports.
Security expert Manny Gomez said higher security needs to be implemented in all areas of the airports.
“Baggage claim or where they drop off luggage or getting your tickets, they’re soft targets,” Gomez said. “You could enter any airport in America. There is little to no security.”
Passengers Friday night said they were shaken, but it was just one more thing to take in stride.
“I think New Yorkers tend to be pretty resilient about these things,” said Ian Cameron of Brooklyn. “The odds are extremely low that anything is going to affect us in this way, but it’s a sad occasion.”
Flights did not arrive or depart from Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for the rest of the day Friday. Several flights have diverted to other South Florida airports.
The airport in Fort Lauderdale was set to reopen at 5 a.m. Saturday, but it might not be business as usual given the number of aircraft out of place and the number of stranded passengers to accommodate.