Officials want to know how teen got around security to stow away on jet
By Dennis Tatz
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 06:36 AM
How a North Carolina teenager got around security at the Charlotte airport for a fatal ride in the landing-gear well of a Boeing 737 jetliner headed for Boston has family members and friends looking for answers.
The battered and partially clad body of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale was found the night of Nov. 15 on Brierbrook Street in Milton.
Local investigators believe Tisdale fell as the airplane lowered its landing gear while approaching Logan International Airport.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the family’s pastor said relatives in Charlotte want to know why security at Charlotte Douglas International Airport didn’t stop the high school sophomore from becoming a stowaway.
“If Delvonte was able to get on a plane, what about a terrorist? Where was security? ” the Rev. James Woodson asked. “He could not have known the destination of the plane on the tarmac. Why he ran away and what happened, we just don’t know.”
Meanwhile, the teen’s mother told The Boston Globe that her son, a member of the junior Air Force ROTC program at his high school, had never flown before and was afraid of heights.
In another interview Tuesday, Jonette Washington, 35, said she believed her son was trying to get to her home in Baltimore.
“It is our intention to fully cooperate with the appropriate federal officials,” airport officials said in a statement.
But the airport’s aviation director told the Charlotte Observer that there is no need for a special review because security at the facility is constantly scrutinized.
The city of Charlotte is responsible for fencing, door locks and other restrictions to airplanes.
The federal Transportation Security Administration has said it was investigating a possible security breach that allowed Tisdale to stow away on a US Airways flight.
The agency said it would work with the airport in a “thorough investigation based on the facts and information provided by law enforcement.”
Only last week, Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating said the investigation pointed to Tisdale avoiding airport personnel and hiding in a commercial airliner.
Keating, who will take a seat in Congress next month, called for a full-fledged review to prevent someone, such as a terrorist, from gaining access to jetliner in the way evidently Tisdale did.
Investigators found grease on Tisdale’s clothing and are testing it to see if it matches grease used on two aircraft they examined at the Charlotte airport.
On Friday, police searching the Blue Hills Reservation near Brierbrook Street found a pair of dark Nike Air Force sneakers and a red shirt that matched descriptions given to police by Tisdale’s family. The items had similar grease stains.
Keating has said forensic tests have been unable to confirm that hand prints found in the wheel well – in places where hand prints would not normally be found – were made by Tisdale’s hands.
Reach Dennis Tatz at dtatz.
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