PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A swimmer at a Pennsylvania university said she “ran immediately” during a shooting rampage at a Florida airport, at one point trying to open an emergency door that wouldn’t give way.
Duquesne University student Michelle Heim was one of three members of the women’s swimming team who were inside the terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday when a gunman opened fire in a baggage claim area, killing five people.
Heim described the scene as “total chaos.”
She told Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV (http://bit.ly/2iOqmpT ) that she took off running when she heard screaming and saw a crowd surging toward her.
“I hit the emergency door, and it wouldn’t open. The alarm just went off. A whole group of people just started slamming into the door and everyone was screaming, and we couldn’t get it open,” she said. “A bunch of people were being trampled, and everyone was falling over and falling down the stairs. I managed to grab one little kid and a woman who was underneath everybody, and we all ran down the runway.”
Eventually, Heim was permitted back into the airport.
“It was really surreal _ luggage everywhere, shoes and jackets all over the place,” she said.
The swim team had taken part in the Orange Bowl Swim Classic in Key Largo earlier in the week. With the university still on winter break, students were flying to multiple destinations, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There were about 30 people in the traveling party. A team meeting is scheduled for Monday.
“In the heat of the moment, you’re so fueled by adrenalin that you don’t realize what’s happening, but then it all sinks in and you’re standing outside waiting to figure out what happened. It’s pretty terrifying,” Heim said.
Members of the Elizabethtown College men’s and women’s swim teams were also at the airport Friday, but at a different terminal.
Information from: WPXI-TV, http://www.wpxi.com