Is parked car a security threat at Sea-Tac? Car's owner thinks so



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Posted on January 8, 2010 at 6:25 PM

SEA-TAC, Wash. -  When you're a reporter, you're trained to look for things that stand out - what's newsworthy, or at least what's worth looking into.

That was the case this morning when reporter Jennifer Cabala and photographer Adam Tischler noticed an SUV that was parked on the upper drive at Sea-Tac that just didn't wouldn't leave. It was there for at least two-and-a-half hours in the drop-off zone.

Cabala and Tischler were out there live on KING 5 Morning News doing stories on airport security. But unattended cars parked on the drive are considered a security risk and they saw no police checking out the car.

Then the car's owner appeared. He said he had been looking for police so he could have the car towed.

The driver, who didn't want to give his name, said after dropping off his wife, the Mercedes SUV wouldn't start. And, yes, the emergency flashers were on.

"I told my wife, I'm going over to see if I can find a police officer so I could let them know the car broke down. So I walked all the way up to the last terminal inside and outside and did not see one officer," the car's owner told our morning crew.

If you've ever picked up or dropped somebody off at Sea-Tac, you know the drill as loud speakers constantly blare out the warning that the drives are for picking up and dropping off only, and if you try and park you will be "ticketed and towed."

When I picked up the story later, photographer Ken Jones saw plenty of ticketing and no apparent reason for towing as the owners came back.

So what gives on the car this morning? Turns out, this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened.

"That time of the morning is our busiest time for departures, so we see thousands of cars at those time periods," said airport spokesman Perry Cooper.

Cooper says because the SUV really wasn't blocking traffic, towing it at that time would have made traffic worse.

"It actually creates more problems to have a tow truck out there and jam up traffic even further," he said, citing the flashing lights of the tow truck, the backing up, the distraction.

Airports around the country and around the world are tough on parking not only because of traffic flow, but because of the security risk. The thinking is that an abandoned car on the drive could contain an explosive.

But Cooper says officers were around and five to seven officers did notice the vehicle and concluded that it wasn't a threat.

It was also being watched on security cameras. 

Maybe it was the emergency flashers, but the airport won't say how they reached that conclusion. The car was also at the north end of the drive at the United Airlines ticketing area, not in the middle of the terminal.

News or not, this case does give us some insight into how police, even regular people, try and navigate the world of security, balancing risks and just trying to get through the day.

Perry Cooper said people should feel free to call 911 if they have a disabled vehicle or have any suspicions about a car on the drive.