It was already late when the news started lighting up the social media accounts of Austin area pilots. A person had wandered onto Runway 17 Right at AUS, Austin Bergstrom International Airport, and was dead.
It took hours for even the bare facts to emerge, but once they did, they only raised more questions. The person, who hasn’t yet been identified by authorities in any other way, was found dead on the runway after an arriving airliner reported seeing a person on the runway. The runway was closed and airport workers were dispatched to see what they could find.
What they did find was a person, dead on the previously active runway, apparently struck by an airplane. We can only imagine how horrifying it must have been to make the discovery and, even worse, to have been the flight crew, if they were indeed aware that they had hit a person.
The plane that hit the person was identified as a Southwest Airlines 737 arriving to Austin from Dallas, about a half-hour long flight. There were, from all accounts, no previous reports of any intruders on the airport grounds—it’s an international airport with a high level of security and perimeter fencing. A photograph of the plane’s nacelle shows a great deal of damage, suggesting an extremely violent collision.
So for now there are more questions than answers. Who was the person? How did they gain access? Why were they on the runway? And was there anything that could have been done to prevent this tragedy?
We’ll update the story as more details become available.