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Lost bags put former Petersburg mayor in Ft. Lauderdale airport at time of shootings

BREAKING NEWS: Posted Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017


January 12, 2017

Photo submitted by Dave Carlson

Dave Carlson found out about the shooting in Terminal 2 at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport on Friday, while picking up bags inside Terminal 1, via the television monitor. Celia, his wife, was getting coffee at the Starbucks counter, pictured nearby, before they were ushered into a secure location at the airport following the shooting.

A mechanical delay and lost luggage put former Petersburg mayor Dave Carlson and wife Celia at the Fort Lauderdale airport just minutes before shooting broke out in Terminal 2 baggage claim area on Friday.

The Carlsons left their Bend, Oregon home for a 10-day cruise aboard the Harmony of the Seas, 6,000 passenger cruise ship destined for the Caribbean. A mechanical put them in Ft. Lauderdale 6 hours late, without their luggage. They were told Friday morning that American Airlines had transferred their bags via a Virgin Airlines flight, which they could claim at the baggage claim area of Terminal 1 in Ft. Lauderdale.

They pulled into the airport terminal at 12:52, according to Carlson's Uber receipt. The shootings began at 12:55. Fortunately for the Carlsons, they were in Terminal 1, not Terminal 2.

"We could see our bags inside the baggage office which was locked," said Carlson. We decided to "just hang around, until the office opened," he added.

In the meantime, Carlson said he heard sirens outside but didn't think anything about it until he saw news of the shootings on the airport television monitors.

Carlson said there was no panic. He texted his children that they were okay and to turn on the news for more information.

Panic set in at Terminal 1 at about 1:30 p.m. An airline employee opened a door to a back room and herded passengers through the entry and then secured the door. Carlson got his wife and followed others to the secure area.

According to Carlson, Celia was getting coffee at Starbucks and when the panic started, "she took shelter behind a cardboard display," he chuckled.

Later, the group heard a knock on the door and there was discussion about whether to open the door. Someone opened the door, and they were faced with a contingent of cops who instructed everyone, "to keep your hands up."

"They marched us outside the terminal to a nearby construction site where we stayed for 6-hours. No water, no bathrooms. I have never seen so many cop cars - 100s of them," Carlson said. "And they don't tell you anything."

There were helicopters overhead and SWAT vehicles and cop cars were everywhere, according to Carlson.

Construction workers helped provide for the displaced group of travelers in Carlson's group. They allowed the use of their Porta-Potties and they ran electrical cords so cell phones could be recharged.

By 7 p.m. the baggage claim area was reopened and the stranded group was able to get water and use bathrooms inside.

While the airport remained closed for the entire night, Carlson said by 8 p.m. they brought busses in to transfer people to the cruise ship terminal to board departing ships.

"It took us two hours to go two miles to the terminal," Carlson said. All roads to the airport were closed, and there were abandoned cars along the freeway.

"We were able to buy tuna fish sandwiches for our dinner at about 11 p.m.," Carlson added.

The entire airport ordeal lasted about 12 hours.

"We're fine. Thank God we were in Terminal 1," he stated.

"I was impressed with the response, but it sure made a mess of things," he reflected.

The Carlsons boarded the cruise ship without their luggage but with a few items they purchased prior to boarding.

American Airlines told them they would transfer their luggage to them after the cruise was underway.

"That's fine," noted Carlson, "I won't have to go to Formal Night onboard."


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