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Teen breaches SLC airport security, found in plane wheel well

Teen breaches SLC airport security, found in plane wheel well (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) - A 16-year-old boy, who fled from police, was able to hop a barbed wire-topped fence at Salt Lake International Airport and make it all the way to an airplane.

"I think it's pretty amazing in this day, with all the security, that he could get that far," said Karen, who flew into Salt Lake City from Southern California.

"It sounds like there could be a lot of little loopholes (in security)," said Sarah, who arrived home on a flight from Hawaii.

The sprawling airport is rimmed by a fence, but it was not enough to stop the teen; and once on the other side, nothing was between him and the wheel well of a Skywest regional jet, where he hid until being discovered by airplane mechanics in a pre-flight inspection.

"For people who might think the airport is far more secure than this, you would say what?" asked 2News to the airport police chief.

"The airport is secure," Chief Craig Vargo said. "But there's no way to prevent everything that could happen."

Vargo said airport officers stopped a car driven by the teen overnight on Wright Brothers Drive, a passenger got out, but the boy sped away. Later, he ditched the car, and police learned the vehicle had been stolen.

"It's concerning that someone could get into the airfield, and you don't know what their intent is," said the chief.

The boy did not have a weapon, and mechanics notified police, who took him into custody.

Vargo said the airport perimeter was checked, and so was the plane---even by handlers with bomb-sniffing dogs.

In a report to Congress in 2016, the Government Accountability Office said: "recent security events have highlighted the vulnerability of commercial airports to weaknesses in perimeter security."

Chief Vargo said his department will look into whether security needs to be tightened.

Karen, the airline passenger, expressed little concern with the breach, but nevertheless mused, "If a 16-year-old can do it, somebody who's a little more creative can probably do it too."

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