Man who caused Phoenix airport terminal shutdown fined $52

PHOENIX (AP/KSAZ) - A man who caused an hours-long shutdown at Phoenix's airport by abandoned a rental car in a no parking area isn't facing charges at this time.

Phoenix police say the unidentified 29-year-old driver received a parking violation notice that carries a $52 fine and was ordered to pay a $75 towing fee.

The man drove a woman to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, then left the rented vehicle in a restricted area of Terminal 4's second level.

The owner of Alliance towing thought he was responding to a routine tow, but it turned into a five-hour ordeal, all because, he says, a driver made a huge mistake.

The towing company that services Sky Harbor says it usually tows a few unattended cars a day, but this time, the owner, Richard Polanco, Jr., says a bomb-sniffing dog signaled a hit, two times in a row.

"They'll go around just to verify it and usually it was nothing and then I tow it. That's about it. And this time, he was adamant there was something there," said Polanco.

A bomb squad was called in, the terminal partially evacuated and three of four security checkpoints closed.

The bomb squad used its robot to investigate the abandoned rental car. No explosives were found, but many people on social media expressed their frustration, as many were on the street during the investigation while the unsuspecting driver was inside the airport.

"He was trying to help somebody. He left the car there, thinking it was okay. Unfortunately, there was literally a garage where he could've parked and this whole situation could've been avoided," said Polanco.

Polanco says he spoke briefly with the driver at the tow yard.

Police say the driver was helping his 19-year-old girlfriend with luggage and getting checked in.

"You could tell he was pretty hurt on his own self-esteem.. calling his parents and whoever else that needed to know he was pretty scared," said Polanco.

According to Polanco, the driver told him he left the car unattended for about 15 minutes. It took about five hours for Terminal 4 to re-open.

"Just a big mistake that turned into something bigger than it should have," said Polanco.

More than 300 flights were delayed and dozens canceled before the terminal returned to normal operations at 11:15 a.m.

Police have submitted a report to the Transportation Security Administration for possible civil penalties.

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