Minnesota runaway, 9, hops flight to Las Vegas without ticket - Fox 2 News Headlines

Runaway Minneapolis boy, 9, hops flight to Las Vegas without ticket

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  • Was Minneapolis boy who snuck on Vegas flight meeting someone?

    Was Minneapolis boy who snuck on Vegas flight meeting someone?

    Monday, October 7 2013 10:41 PM EDT2013-10-08 02:41:43 GMT
    The 9-year-old runaway who snuck through airport security in the Twin Cities and made his way onto a Delta flight to Sin City may have been trying to meet someone he met online, officials say.
    The story of a 9-year-old runaway from Minneapolis who snuck through airport security in the Twin Cities and made his way onto a Delta flight to Sin City got a bit murkier on Monday with the revelation that the boy may have been trying to meet someone he met online.

No parents, no ticket, no questions -- no problem. A 9-year-old runaway went through security, boarded a plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and flew to Las Vegas, airport officials confirmed on Sunday.

Getting through airport security can be a hassle for some, but security officials screened the Minneapolis boy at the airport shortly after 10:30 a.m. Thursday after he arrived via light rail, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan said. Security cameras caught the boy playing on the escalators before he passed through security without either an ID or a boarding pass by moving along with another family and kids.

At the Delta gate for the Las Vegas flight leaving at 11:15 a.m., the boy seemed to walk right onto the plane while the ticket agent was busy with other passengers.

"This is a big deal," said Gregg Proteaux, a flight attendant with another airline. "Getting a child from here to Nevada -- this is kind of unheard of."

Proteaux, who authored the book "Attitudes at Every Altitude," admitted he is amazed the boy made it through as many security layers as he did.

"I'm surprised they got up in the air. We call them UM -- unaccompanied minors. It's an official form," he explained. "Most airlines it's -- I don't know, 5- to 15-years-old, maybe 12. The documentation includes who brought them to Minneapolis airport, and who is going to pick them up under normal circumstances."

The flight was not full, Hogan said, and the flight crew became suspicious mid-flight because the boy was not on their list of unattended minors. The crew then contacted Las Vegas police, who met them upon landing and transferred the boy to child protection services, Hogan said.

"It's hard to piece anything together from his stories why he got on the flight and went to Las Vegas," Hogan said.

Minneapolis police Sgt. Bill Palmer said officers talked to the family after Las Vegas police contacted them. A family member told police the boy ran away and was last seen earlier Thursday.

The boy had been at the airport on Wednesday as well, Hogan said. Video shows him grabbing a bag from the carousel and ordering lunch at a restaurant outside of the security checkpoints.

Working at the only pre-security restaurant at Terminal One, Ricardo Lopez sees a lot of customers come through Hot Dish. Lopez was on the clock when the boy came in with a large luggage bag and sat down in a booth on Wednesday.

"Very, very polite kid," he recalled.

According to Lopez, the boy ordered coffee, Sierra Mist, wings and fried pickles. While the food was being prepared, the kitchen staff considered the situation.

"We started talking about it behind the kitchen," Lopez said. "You see this kid -- it's like a 'Home Alone' movie. He's by himself."

The boy ate in about 15 minutes and then told the server he had to use the bathroom. He left the bag and never returned to pay -- creating a security concern by leaving the unattended baggage.

Airport officials returned the bag to its owner, who had not yet landed when the boy took the bag.

Delta and the Transportation Security Administration said in separate statements that they were investigating.

"The child was screened along with all other passengers to ensure that he was not a threat to the aircraft," the TSA said.

Hennepin County Child Protection Services also was looking into it, Palmer said. County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said Sunday she couldn't confirm or deny the agency's involvement because the case involves a juvenile and data privacy issues.

The boy was expected to return to the Twin Cities, but Hogan didn't know Sunday if that had happened yet.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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