A driver believed to be mentally ill crashed through a fence and led police on a high-speed chase around a runway, endangering passengers on two planes, authorities said.
The car crashed through a perimeter security gate and onto a runway at Southwest Florida International Airport, came close to a Southwest Airlines plane that was taking off Tuesday night and sped under the wing of another plane preparing to depart, authorities said.
“The (Southwest) pilot appeared to be forced to take off suddenly to avoid hitting the suspect’s vehicle, which was traveling in the same direction on the active runway,” Lee County Port Authority Police Officer John Millican said.
The chase began when a Lee County sheriff’s deputy showed up at 34-year-old Jack J. Brems’ Fort Myers home on a disturbance call. A port authority officer picked up the chase after Brems’ car crashed through the airport security gate.
Brems was arrested after his car crashed into a pond. He faces six charges, including fleeing police and reckless driving. He remained jailed Thursday, according to jail records, which did not indicate whether he has a lawyer yet.
Brems’ former father-in-law, Dennis Mucerino, said Brems had been treated for mental illness and had recently started referring to himself as Jesus.
“He kept preaching the Bible,” said Mucerino, who lives two doors down from Brems in San Carlos Park. “He was coming down to my house. He wouldn’t stop talking. You couldn’t get a word in. I told him to go away because I didn’t like dealing with him.”
The Transportation Security Administration sent inspectors to the airport to ensure officials were complying with the security program, spokesman Christopher White said.
“Perimeter security is very important and we believe that the airport has adequate safeguards in place,” he said.