Both terminals at John Wayne Airport were temporarily evacuated Sunday evening and passengers were taken off airplanes after a female passenger made it past a security checkpoint without being screened, authorities said.
Hundreds of travelers - even those aboard airplanes - were required to undergo a second security check, said Nico Melendez of the Transportation Security Administration.
Six outgoing flights were delayed as passengers were re-screened and put back on the planes, Melendez said. Authorities did not provide details Sunday night about who slipped past security or how she managed to do so.
An alarm sounded shortly after 5:30 p.m. and Orange County Sheriff's deputies and airport security began evacuating the terminals. Lines snaked out the doors as travelers lined up again in front of checkpoints.
Passengers erupted in cheers when the checkpoints reopened for screening at 7:20 p.m, said Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Hayward Miller. Many passengers missed their flights and were forced to rebook on later flights.
Many sat on their suitcases or on the ground, fanning themselves to cool off in the sweltering airport as they waited to be re-screened.
Robin Lavengood, 43, was one of hundreds of passengers waiting to begin re-screening. He had just walked in the door of the airport when the evacuation began.
He was trying to get on a 7 p.m. flight to Portland. "I don't think it's gonna happen now," he said, surveying the throng of people.
The airport, 35 miles south of Los Angeles, served more than 9.6 million passengers last year and hosts flights from Southwest, Delta, United and American, among others.
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The evacuation at about 3:45 p.m. EDT was prompted after an employee who had been fired ran off while being escorted out of the airport.
The sheriffs department aides who guard the passenger exits are armed only with radios and are not permitted to leave their posts, so they could not pursue the intruder, who was never found.
A woman cut through a security checkpoint without being screened.
After being told to check some liquids, the man did so in the lobby and somehow walked through a door and headed to his departure gate instead of being rescreened.