LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A loud car accident at LAX and a concurrent anonymous call of a person with a gun created chaos at the airport Friday evening, with terminals evacuated and police searching the passenger gates with guns drawn. No shots were fired, police said.
The incidents led to closure of some roadways at the airport and pushed airport traffic into near-gridlock conditions.
The events apparently started shortly before 8 p.m. with a multi-car accident, airport officials said. Aerial footage of the crash showed a minivan that had plowed into a stairwell of a parking structure outside the lower level of Terminal 5. The vehicle was wedged underneath the second-floor stairwell.
At a 10 p.m. news conference, LAX officials said the airport was “finally” getting back to normal operations.
Traffic around the airport remained backed up for miles even by 11 p.m. Officials asked motorists to avoid the area “if at all possible.”
The sound of the accident — three weeks after a gunman killed a TSA agent at the airport — prompted passengers inside the terminal to self-evacuate out of fear that gunshots were fired.
“Apparently there was a very loud crash. People inside the terminal did not know what was happening. Some people panicked and they self-evacuated from the terminal,” reported KCAL9’s Derek Bell.
“When people self-evacuated, they left a lot of baggage. Unattended baggage is a security risk now,” Bell added.
The driver of the minivan, described as a woman, was being assessed by first responders, who were on scene. The extent of her injuries, if any, were not known.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Police responded to a report from passengers that shots were fired. Upon arriving on scene, airport police confirmed that no shots were fired.
Meanwhile, while chaos was unfolding at Terminal 5, “an anonymous caller to Airport Police reported there was man with a weapon at Gate 45 in Terminal 4,” a statement from the airport indicated.
The call prompted authorities to fully evacuate Terminal 4 out of an abundance of caution. The terminal has since been cleared.
A statement from Los Angeles World Airports on Friday evening said as many as 4,600 arriving and departing passengers were affected by the various incident.
American Airlines (Terminal 4) and Delta Airlines (Terminal 5) reported a total of 60 delayed flights between them but said there were no cancellations.
The statement also added that Delta diverted four incoming flights to nearby airports and those planes were expected to refuel and return to LAX.
Up-to-date information about terminals and airport conditions can be found on Twitter @LAX_Official.