Shooting chaos at LA Airport catches Kiwis

By Bevan Hurley, Leena Tailor in Los Angeles

Kiwi leads escape from LAX gunman

Steven Bates
Steven Bates

A New Zealander barricaded himself and other terrified passengers into a secure luggage area after a gunman opened fire metres away at Los Angeles Airport yesterday.

Steven Bates took the action as gunman Paul Anthony Ciancia fired dozens of rounds into the airport crowd, killing a transit security officer and wounding seven other people.

Bates, a married father of two from Auckland and an executive with medical response company Medaire, said he dived to the ground after hearing the "pop pop pop" of an assault rifle firing at Terminal Three.

"It was like, 'What the hell? Is that what we think it is'? Then there was another barrage. We jumped behind the counters and got on to the conveyor belt and through the hole ... "

Bates and other fleeing passengers told airport workers: "There's a lot of shooting out there so we've come in to join you guys."

They barricaded themselves in with elderly people and Virgin America counter staff. "The gunfire was right there. Initially it was just bewilderment.

Eight shots to begin with and then there was another big barrage - another eight shots or so. Then it was like, 'Holy s***'! You didn't know if the guy was running our way or what. I put my head around the corner and it was happening right there. I wasn't keen to be a hero."

Bates said the airport was in lockdown for more than six hours. When he was eventually led out, Bates walked straight past where the security guard was lying dead on the ground.

The businessman had been on his way to Florida for a boat show and was only at Los Angeles airport because his Air New Zealand flight on Thursday night was delayed for 10 hours.

Former Shortland Street star Fleur Saville was another caught up in the shootout.

The 29-year-old Los Angeles-based actress had just arrived back from the world premiere of her independent horror film Blood Punch at the Austin Film Festival in Texas.

She was just leaving Terminal 3 to board a shuttle when everyone started "freaking out".

Realising she could be in danger, Saville jumped on a shuttle - one of the last shuttles to pull away as airport police shut down the airport.

"Everyone on foot was banging on bus windows to get rides," Saville said. "People were running away from the terminal, not knowing where to go.

Fleur Saville fled the LAX terminal. Photo / Janna Dixon
Fleur Saville fled the LAX terminal. Photo / Janna Dixon

"Officers were telling people to get protection in buses, so they were jumping on to them.

"It was chaos. There were more police cars, helicopters and ambulances than you can imagine.

"I'm feeling very lucky to have made it out," she added. "It's times like these when you get very homesick. It was a very strange experience and I just feel for the TSA officer's family. This is yet another reason to address the gun laws in the US."

Hundreds of flights were cancelled - and more than 350 passengers on board an Air New Zealand flight remained on the tarmac for more than four hours as chaos reigned.

Aucklander Leah Davey, 35, landed at LAX moments after the shooting occurred.

"It was just chaos," she said. "The whole airport was on lockdown. We got let out, but there were no domestic flights departing and we managed to get a bus to a rental car facility and (we're) trying to find our way out of here now."

People at the airport were more angry than scared following the shooting, Davey said. "There was not a lot of communication about what was going on."


- Additional reporting Brendan Manning of APNZ

- Herald on Sunday

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