Airport shooting: Minn. mom: ‘We flew with the shooter’


Page Laska and her family were among many who spent three hours and 12 minutes on a crowded flight from Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning — and it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Laska disembarked, quickly grabbed her bags from the Delta terminal and hopped on a shuttle headed for a nearby hotel with her 8-year-old son Garrett. Her husband, Dennis Anco, and 11-year-old son Benjamin, who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a motorized wheelchair, waited outside the terminal for a handicap-accessible cab.

“Pops” rang out, as Laska’s husband recalled, and crowds rushed the automatic doors outside the terminal.

Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting: Latest news, photos, video

What we know now about Fort Lauderdale victims

Laska didn’t see her son or husband for three hours. She later learned her husband lifted his 11-year-old son from his wheelchair and ran across the ground floor of the airport, well past its four terminals and the chaotic masses toward a parking lot for safety.

Laska exchanged phone calls with them in the moments that followed — Laska from a hotel and Anco and Ben, both uninjured, from a crowd stranded at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. It was after a gunman, likely a passenger on their Delta flight, opened fire Friday, killing five and injuring six.

“I told (Ben) they had gotten the shooter, that everything was going to be fine, that I was going to see him,” an emotional Laska told The Palm Beach Post on Saturday. “I said it, but part of me thought that was going to be my last phone call with my son.”

Laska and Anco strained to recall the ordinary and forgettable seconds between grabbing their luggage — the first bags to roll by on the conveyor belt — and Esteban Santiago pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and opening fire on the crowd.

“It must’ve been five minutes or less,” she said.

It was enough time for Laska, and 15 of her family members who had all flown from their native Minnesota to Fort Lauderdale for a cruise, to board a shuttle and leave before the shots rang out. They were last off the plane, but first out of the sliding doors.

“We missed it by seconds,” Laska said. “That’s not to say we aren’t completely aware that we could’ve been one of those people that didn’t make it … There must be a guardian angel watching over us.”

Ben still shudders when he hears loud noises, his mother said.

“He heard a baby cry, a high-pitched cry, and panicked,” she said. “I tell him he’s safe, but it’s a hard thing to talk about. It’ll take time.”

Laska and Anco didn’t immediately realize that Santiago was on their flight until it was reported that he flew from Anchorage to Minneapolis, then from Minneapolis to Florida before carrying out the mass shooting.

Nothing was out of the ordinary during the flight, Laska said.

They didn’t recognize Santiago’s face or photo, and said he clearly didn’t stand out.

“It’s tough to even think about it,” Laska said. “We want to move on, not dwell on it.”

Ben was reunited with his wheelchair after Delta staff, along with Laska’s niece Alli, searched for it overnight.

“Ben doesn’t walk,” Laska said. “That wheelchair is his legs.”

Amid the choas of lost luggage and stranded travelers, an emergency coordinator with Delta told the family locating Ben’s wheelchair was a top priority, Laska said.

The staff told the family they sorted through more than 1,000 bags in search of the 250-pound wheelchair before delivering it Saturday morning — in time for the family cruise.

Said Alli: “That people would do all of that to get Ben’s wheelchair shows us in such a tragedy, there’s a little glimmer of hope.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

2 California women arrested in dead baby scam
2 California women arrested in dead baby scam

Two California women were arrested Sunday on fraud charges after allegedly panhandling for money to bury a dead baby that did not belong to either of them, police said. San Bernardino County deputies arrested 26-year-old Chasity Marie Doll on suspicion of panhandling charges, and an hour later they arrested 41-year old Michele Love on the same charge...
John McCain takes apparent jab at Trump during interview about Vietnam War
John McCain takes apparent jab at Trump during interview about Vietnam War

Sen. John McCain appeared to take a swipe at President Donald Trump during an interview about the Vietnam War on CSPAN-3 American History TV, criticizing people from “the highest income level” who avoided the military draft by finding a doctor who would say that “they had a bone spur,” CNN reported. Trump attended the New...
Body of small child discovered during search for missing 3-year-old 
Body of small child discovered during search for missing 3-year-old 

Authorities in Texas said Sunday they have discovered the body of a small child while searching for a 3-year-old who has been missing for several weeks, CNN reported. Sherin Mathews of Richardson, Texas, was reported missing on Oct. 7. She was last seen in the backyard of her family’s home by her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews, CNN...
Justin Timberlake will headline Super Bowl LII halftime show
Justin Timberlake will headline Super Bowl LII halftime show

Singer Justin Timberlake will be returning to the Super Bowl stage for the first time since he was part of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004, the NFL confirmed Sunday. Timberlake, who will be performing in his third Super Bowl halftime show, will be the featured artist during the intermission of the NFL’s showcase...
UPDATE: Riviera cops looking for Dodge Charger in fatal shooting
UPDATE: Riviera cops looking for Dodge Charger in fatal shooting

A unidentified 23-year-old man was killed and his girlfriend injured in a shooting at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the 2600 block of West 28th Street, according to a spokeswoman for Riviera Beach police. Police are still searching for the man who jumped out of a dark-colored Dodge Charger and shot the 23-year-old when the man took cover in another vehicle...
More Stories