TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa international Airport officials increased security Friday after the deadly Fort Lauderdale shooting. Tampa’s airport has also become a stopping point for thousands of air travelers diverted from the chaos in South Florida.
Tampa is expecting thousands of visitors for the College Football Playoff National Championship. On Friday K-9 officers sniffed trash cans, luggage and hideaways. Airport police officers roamed the terminal with high-powered rifles.
“We are confident that the level of security that we have is where it needs to be. It allows us to respond pretty quickly to an incident,” TIA Vice President of Operations John Tiliacos said.
In the hours just after the shooting, seven planes destined for Fort Lauderdale airport made unscheduled stops in Tampa. Passengers were bused to South Florida. Others decided to make the drive themselves.
“We were coming from Houston, going to Fort Lauderdale, and in mid-air they said, ‘We’re going to Tampa,’” John Pruitt explained.
Pilots aboard diverted flights gave passengers the bad news. “They diverted us in the air and told us that we are going to stop in Tampa for unknown time and let us know what from there. Wo we’re gonna try to get a rental car and drive back to Fort Lauderdale,” Rob Estell said.
Passengers realized if they had been scheduled to land a few hours earlier, they could have been in Fort Lauderdale in the middle of the flying bullets. “It’s really scary, actually. I’m glad to be alive and well and so, bit of a pain being in Tampa here, but it’s better than being in that incident,” said Ben Lewites, who was diverted on his flight from New York City.
This shooting incident is raising questions about the safety of airport areas such as baggage claim, which is unsecured.
TIA’s Tiliacos said there may be a need to improve security in places such as the main terminal and baggage claim.