Crews load a vehicle on a truck after it struck a stairwell near Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles International Airport was partly evacuated and some flights delayed on Friday evening after passengers mistook the noise from a car crash outside for gunfire, at around the same time as an anonymous caller reported an armed man in a terminal, officials said.
The reports of an armed man and shots fired, while they appear to be false, disrupted flight operations and alarmed passengers at the California airport, one of the world's busiest, where a gunman killed a federal security agent and wounded several others in a shooting spree on November 1.
Shortly before 7:30 p.m. local time on Friday, airport police responded to a report from passengers that shots were fired at terminal 5. They found this report to be false, citing a "loud noise" produced from a multiple-vehicle traffic accident on a roadway outside the terminal, according to airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles.
At around the same time, an anonymous caller told airport police that there was a man with a weapon in terminal 4, Castles said. Police investigated and found that report to be false but fully evacuated the terminal so it could be searched.
At least 2,000 passengers are estimated to have either fled on their own or under direction by airport police.
"It was just a crazy, crazy night," said another airport spokeswoman, Katherine Alvarado. "There was a car accident that was very loud and people thought it was gun shots. They started evacuating."
Flight operations in terminal 4 were temporarily disrupted, but were expected to resume once passengers re-entered security checkpoints and returned to their boarding gates, Castles said.
Terminal 4 was secured and employees were returning to work, Castles said.
Delta Air Lines, which operates out of terminal 5, and American Airlines, which operates out of terminal 4, were reporting some delayed flights, with two diversions to regional airports, but no cancellations, the airport said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Pravin Char)