A 27-year-old man delayed two flights Monday after authorities said he hopped a fence and made his way onto a Tampa International Airport runway.
Alexander Ortega was given a trespassing warning and taken into custody for a mental health examination under the state’s Baker Act.
Airport police captured Ortega three minutes after the incident was reported to 911. Authorities say Ortega was spotted on the airport’s secondary runway just before 5 p.m. by an employee with Hawker Beechcraft, an aviation maintenance company.
"Anytime something like this happens it's very concerning," said TIA spokesperson Emily Nipps.
Two departing flights were temporarily delayed as a result.
"It just kind of played out in front of our eyes," said one affected passenger, Marcus Motes.
Motes spoke to us over the phone during his layover. He said he was never scared, just very confused.
"He was just standing with his hands up in the air," Motes said. "We were certainly confused, but there didn't really appear to be any immediate danger."
As authorities wheeled him into an ambulance, Ortega told reporters that he ran onto the runway because he was scared for his life and "needed help." When asked what he was afraid of, he said "dying."
The last time a person breached a runway at TIA was in 2008, according to airport officials.
"We have a multi-layered security system here, and we're confident it's a pretty strong system. So we're just trying to figure out now exactly what he did," Nipps said.
Ortega does have a criminal record with prior arrests for aggravated assault with a firearm, burglary and contempt of court.