White Stone couple witnesses airport shooting tragedy

Green captured this photo of passengers waiting for hours on the tarmac. Photo by Carl Green
by Audrey Thomasson

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.—Carl and Eleanor Green of White Stone were waiting at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport for a 2:45 p.m. flight home Friday, January 6, when a man opened fire on travelers, killing five and injuring six others.

“We heard the popping sounds of the shots, but didn’t think anything of it,” said Carl Green.

The couple was sitting near the baggage area, about 70 feet away from where the shooting occurred. They were unaware of the danger until a Jet Blue employee ran around the corner and announced there had been a shooting and told everyone to lie down.

“There was a lot of chaos,” Green said.

The gunman fired 10 to 15 rounds in a matter of seconds before he ran out of ammunition and dropped to the floor.

But the episode went on for hours for the Greens and all the other people as the airport shut down and flights were suspended.

After some time, an employee opened a door and people ran out onto the tarmac, Green recalled. “We were on the tarmac for three and a half or four hours.”

Green said passengers had to either stand or sit on the concrete.

“As the sun was setting we were brought back in to the lower level for two and a half to three hours. There was a lot of security around us at all times.”

Eventually, the Greens and other passengers were bused to nearby Port Everglades were they were rescued by friend Dixon Whitworth around 2 a.m. and driven to a hotel. Whitworth drove the Greens to Orlando Sunday night where flight delays continued as a result of the incident. They finally arrived in Richmond late Sunday.

Green admitted they were initially scared. But their concern was mostly for young travelers. “Some kids were traveling by themselves. No one was there to comfort them,” he said.

The alleged shooter, Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, was declared indigent and was assigned a court appointed attorney. On Tuesday, January 17, he was given a pre-trial detention hearing.