You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

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

NEW: Coast Guard medevacs man, 52, from cruise ship
NEW: Coast Guard medevacs man, 52, from cruise ship

A 52-year-old man was medevacked from the Carnival Pride cruise ship 50 miles east of St. Augustine early Saturday after experiencing symptoms of shock, the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard said the Jacksonville Command Center received notification about the man at 11:15 p.m. Friday and an MH-60 helicopter crew arrived on the scene at 1:40 a.m. Saturday...
WATCH: Gator goes after Florida man trying to take picture
WATCH: Gator goes after Florida man trying to take picture

A guy had a close call with a gator after he strayed from a path to take a better picture.  The man left other hikers on the boardwalk of La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie in Gainesville and encroached on a mother alligator’s space as she was sunbathing, according to Ben Boukari Jr, who posted the video on Facebook.  <div>...
JUST IN: Coast Guard searching for missing 50-year-old diver
JUST IN: Coast Guard searching for missing 50-year-old diver

Coast Guard crews are searching for a 50-year-old male diver who failed to surface Saturday half a mile east of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. A Fort Lauderdale Coast Guard boat crew and a Miami Coast Guard helicopter crew are conducting the search in conjunction with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department and the Florida Fish...
Florida homestead law a ‘debtor’s haven’? Not for Beverly Hills dentist
Florida homestead law a ‘debtor’s haven’? Not for Beverly Hills dentist

Facing a $2.1 million court judgment in California, longtime Los Angeles resident Michael Motamed suddenly got a yen to move to Florida, plunking down $1.5 million for an oceanfront condominium in Palm Beach. But attorneys representing a former UCLA pre-med student who suffered horrific injuries in 2012 when Motamed’s Mercedes plowed into...
BREAKING: Car crashes into West Palm Beach house, driver extricated
BREAKING: Car crashes into West Palm Beach house, driver extricated

A woman had to be extricated from her car after it crashed into a home in the 2700 block of Genesse Avenue Saturday, Fire Rescue spokesman Albert Borroto said. The crash happened shortly before noon and extrication tools were used to cut the driver, who was trapped, from her car, Borroto said. The driver was taken to a local trauma center to be treated...
More Stories