What to Know
- Travelers at Newark Airport were given an intense scare Monday, as some on social media said they were told to quickly leave Terminal A
- Port Authority officials said a flight attendant was asking "bizarre" questions to two men, then hit an alarm and told people to leave
- The agency says the men were initially questioned and found to have done nothing wrong; the flight attendant was questioned Monday night
The flight attendant who sparked a panic Monday night at Newark Liberty International Airport, sending up to 200 travelers fleeing a busy terminal in confused fear, had walked up to two men and asked them a series of "bizarre" questions before hitting an alarm and telling people to flee, officials say.
Port Authority officials in an update Tuesday didn't immediately describe the nature of the questions the Alaska Airlines flight attendant was asking the two men at Gate 30 the night before. Whatever happened in the conversation prompted the woman to hit the alarm and tell people to get out of the terminal; about 150 to 200 passengers used a ramp outside Gate 37 to get out.
The two men were identified and were initially questioned by Port Authority police but were found to have done nothing wrong and were released, authorities said. As of late Monday, the flight attendant was still being questioned.
Airport sources told News 4 the attendant told authorities questioning her something along the lines of, "We got them; they are going to kill us all" and "I don’t care if they fire me, I’m protecting the people of the United States, this is never going to happen again,” among other statements.
Port Authority officials said Tuesday afternoon it wasn't clear if she had been released or charged. She had been scheduled to serve on an Alaska Air flight to San Francisco, the officials said.
In a statement to News 4, Alaska Airlines apologized Tuesday for the fracas.
"We sincerely apologize for the experience our guests and other airline passengers had at Newark last night," the airline said. "Alaska Airlines values the safety of our guests as our highest priority. We’re conducting a thorough investigation to determine what occurred."
There was no danger to anyone at the airport and the situation remained controlled, according to Port Authority officials. The case remains under investigation, and the Port Authority says airport operations were not affected.
The panic was sparked around 8:30 p.m. Monday; frightened flyers left the terminal so quickly many left behind their luggage, pictures and video showed.
Erin Fors, who was one of the people made to leave, said on Twitter that she was at the gate about to board the flight when the “chaos” ensued.
“Imagine you’re starting to board and a frazzled flight attendant comes off the plane, stops the process, asks someone to call the police, then starts yelling (with increasing loudness) ‘Evacuate!’” Fors tweeted after the ordeal. Multiple people in the terminal said it sounded like gun shots were possibly fired, but there was no evidence of any gunfire, authorities said.
“I ran with the crowds, hid under some seats, looked for an exit, headed out to the tarmac,” Fors later tweeted. “Sounded like gun shots but after seeing the damage in this terminal, it’s more likely it was glass being shattered from people jumping. Terrifying.”
After a few minutes, the travelers were allowed back into the terminal that was littered with abandoned bags and luggage. Those who left had to be re-screened.