Maintenance worker prevents tragedy after teen steals and crashes airplane

Local News

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – An airport maintenance worker is being credited with helping stop the person who police say attempted to steal an airplane from inside Fresno Yosemite International airport Wednesday.

Airport officials say a 17-year-old girl climbed a barbed wire fence around 7:30 a.m., got inside the small aircraft, and started the engine.

Airport surveillance video captured the plane moving around the tarmac, crashing into a fence, before turning and plowing into a building. Authorities say no one was hurt in the crash but the plane sustained substantial damage.

“This entire incident could have been a major disaster if not for a maintenance individual who worked in the hanger there,” said security analyst Mike Spicer.

The maintenance worker did not want to be interviewed. He says his employer told him not to comment on this investigation, but he did confirm he hopped inside the plane and shut off the engine.

The teenager was arrested soon afterward.

“The female appeared to be disoriented and uncooperative with police when she was taken into custody,” said Airport Public Safety Chief Drew Bessinger.

RELATED: Teen breaches security, crashes plane at Fresno airport

“That’s what’s really astounding, how did she do that without blowing the engine up?” said pilot Drew Pearson.

It happened at the general aviation portion of the airport used mainly by private planes. Experts say it’s a mystery how she was able to fire up the million-dollar King Air 200.

“I was shocked a 17-year-old girl with no pilot experience was able to start a King Air and actually get it to turn on its not like putting a key in a car and it starts up,” said Pearson.

“All this information can be obtained and learned over the internet,” said Spicer.

Spicer says an assessment is needed to find out how this could happen.

“Nothing is 100 percent secure. Not even these airports,” said Spicer.

The Airport Public Safety Chief says no passengers or commercial airlines were at risk during the incident. Airport staff members are now working with the FAA and the FBI on the investigation.

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