Much to the consternation of authorities, the man’s efforts apparently outwitted the airport’s $100 million, state-of-the-art perimeter surveillance system.
The incident began when the man, identified as 31-year-old Daniel Casillo, went out “racing” in his watercraft after drinking with buddies, the New York Post reports.
“They were trying to see who had the fastest jet skis, like idiots,” his girlfriend, Deanna Cowan, says to the Post.
But Casillo’s jet ski broke down around 7:45 p.m. ET in Jamaica Bay, which fronts JFK airport at its eastern edge.
The Post writes that when his friends didn’t notice his absence, “the stranded Casillo swam three miles toward the only thing he could see — the lights of Runway 4-Left, which sticks out into the bay.”
Wearing a bright yellow life jacket, he emerged “dripping wet” and climbed an 8-foot-high perimeter fence before walking unnoticed across that runway “and intersecting Runway 31L,” the Post writes.
He was arrested and charged with criminal trespass after he approached a Delta ground worker near Terminal 3‘s Gate 10, according to the Post.
The incident has drawn outrage from local politicians and officials.
“We’re dealing with safety here,” Senator Charles Schumer says to New York’s WABC TV. “God forbid a terrorist should get onto a runway of an airport,” he adds to the station, which notes in its report that this is not the first problem with the security system.