The lost jet-skier who was able to breach security at Kennedy Airport by scaling an 8-foot barbed wire fence and walking across two runways into a terminal had been on the police radar after being reported missing by friends at least 15 minutes before, NBC 4 New York has learned.
Port Authority Knew Jet-Skier Was Missing Ahead of JFK Security Breach
Published at 11:17 PM EDT on Aug 22, 2012 | Updated at 4:17 PM EDT on Aug 23, 2012
An internal investigation is now underway to determine how the Port Authority handled the information about the missing jet skier, sources said.
An apparent lack of official police mobilization sheds some light on why 32-year-old Danny Casillo ended up at the Kennedy Airport terminal on Aug. 12, dripping wet and wearing a life jacket. His jet ski had run out of fuel in Jamaica Bay, and Casillo swam toward Kennedy's runway 4L, which juts out into the bay.
He then climbed the 8-foot fence that is part of the airport's state-of-the-art Perimeter Intrusion Detection system and made his way across two intersecting runways – an estimated distance of nearly two miles – before he was spotted on a terminal ramp by a Delta employee and was eventually detained.
Port Authority police had known there was a missing jet skier on Jamaica Bay: Sources tell NBC 4 New York that when Casillo's friends searched for him on the water, they encountered as many as a dozen Port Authority police officers who were in the middle of a training exercise on a boat.
The officers asked Casillo's friends what they were doing on the bay, and they explained Casillo was missing.
The team on the training boat immediately began a search for the missing jet-skier. The Port Authority would not say Wednesday whether dive teams or other boats were deployed, citing a pending investigation.
Port Authority police also did notify the U.S. Coast Guard at 10 p.m. that "a fishing boat had picked up two jet-skiers, who reported a third was missing." But the Coast Guard says shortly after it initiated a search, Port Authority Police contacted them again at 10:15 p.m. to inform them a "man was in custody." The Coast Guard canceled its search.
The Port Authority did not alert the NYPD aviation unit.
Thomas Ruskin, a former NYPD detective and current president of CMP Group Security, said there should have been an immediate heavy police response as soon as they received the report of a man lost in the waters surrounding the airport.
"You either had a man on a jet ski in distress in Jamaica Bay, which should have indicated some kind of security or investigation, or you had someone trying to breach the security at the airport," said Ruskin.
"If it's a situated plan to do some destruction at an airport, five minutes is a long time," he said. "This man, from what we know, had 15-plus minutes to make his way across with no detection."
In a statement, the Port Authority said it has "called for an expedited review of the incident and a complete investigation to determine how Raytheon's perimeter intrusion detection system – which exceeds federal requirements – could be improved."
The agency, which is in charge of securing Kennedy and other major airports in the area, said it has also increased its 24/7 police presence with round-the-clock patrols of the facility's perimeter and increased patrols by boat of the surrounding waterway.
Casillo, from Howard Beach in Queens, declined to speak with NBC 4 New York but still faces trespassing charges for ending up in the airport in a restricted area.
He's expected back in court in early October.