Local News

RDU Downplays Security Breach, Plans to Review Procedures

Posted December 21, 2006 4:59 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2006 8:48 p.m. EST

— Two days after a disoriented man was found aboard a Delta Airlines jet at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, airport officials continue to downplay the security breach. But a congressman called the incident "troubling."

At an RDU Airport Authority meeting Thursday, airport director John Brantley commended the cleaning crew that apprehended the man but made no mention of possible holes in airport security.

"They spotted the gentlemen. They took him into their personal custody. They escorted him off the aircraft, and they called the police," Brantley said.

Gregory Scott Wester, 32, of 30 Old Mill Road in Fuquay-Varina, has been charged by RDU police with first-degree trespassing and possession of a controlled substance, authorities said. The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration also charged him with access to an aircraft without permission.

Authorities said Wester climbed a 7-foot-high, barbed wire fence at the perimeter of the airport and boarded an empty plane, where a cleaning crew found him at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday and turned him over to police.

Some airport authority board members told WRAL that the security breach was cause for concern, but they agreed with Brantley's assessment that RDU's security system worked because Wester was arrested and no one was harmed.

But 4th District Congressman David Price called the breach "troubling." He said in a statement Thursday that security changes might be needed at the airport and others around the country.

"I understand that RDU and TSA will be investigating the incident in order to determine ways to prevent events such as this from occurring in the future," Price said. "I will be carefully monitoring these efforts to see what changes might be called for at RDU or airports around the country."

RDU spokeswoman Minday Hamlin said the airport is is constantly looking at ways to improve security. Officials already planned to update the security system for entry into some doors and gates and will now also look at whether changes should be made to the perimeter fencing.

"There are a lot of what-if scenarios that we can talk about," Hamlin said, calling security a daily fact of life at the airport.