Image: Jack Hanna
Richard Ellis  /  AFP/Getty Images
Jack Hanna, director of the Columbus, Ohio, zoo, is seen holding a two-month-old Bengal tiger during a visit to Capitol Hill earlier this summer. The animal expert and an 11-month-old flamingo became trapped while trying to squeeze through a security turnstile at an Ohio airport.
updated 9/17/2007 2:42:19 PM ET 2007-09-17T18:42:19

Animal expert Jack Hanna and an 11-month-old flamingo became trapped while trying to squeeze through a security turnstile at an Ohio airport. It took firefighters to finally get the flamingo out.

Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on nationally televised talk shows, was returning from a zoo fundraiser with a mongoose, a small leopard and the flamingo. Three other people were with them.

The entourage arrived at the Ohio State University Airport just after midnight Sunday to find the terminal closed. The only way to leave the tarmac was through a 10-foot-tall metal turnstile with several horizontal bars — not the easiest exit to squeeze through when you are traveling with boxed-up animals, Hanna said.

"I never thought about the crate being square and the turnstile being round," he said.

Hanna, 60, pushed the flamingo's 2-foot-by-3-foot compartment into the turnstile, then continued pushing while straddling the crate.

"I was stuck like a worm. My eyes were as big as grapefruits," he said. "I can't describe the feeling in my stomach. I can't move up or down. The bars are on your face."

Hanna said he eventually squirmed free, leaving the flamingo still wedged inside and everyone else trapped on the tarmac. He then walked to a nearby fire station for help. It took three firefighters to hoist the flamingo's crate up and out of the turnstile, he said.

Columbus fire department logs show the firefighters arrived at the airport at 12:30 a.m. for a "flamingo rescue," spokeswoman Kelly McGuire said.

Hanna joked that the next time he flies through the airport, the biggest animal he will bring is a gerbil.

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