Man takes airport shuttle for a spin

Was a man in a wheelchair early Monday morning aspiring for a bigger set of wheels? Authorities at San Francisco International Airport can only guess why a man in a wheelchair climbed into the driver’s seat of a Doubletree shuttle bus and went on a joyride around the terminals with passengers still aboard.

The shuttle arrived at Terminal One with around 15 passengers about 5:30 a.m., airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.

The hotel shuttle’s driver was unloading luggage when the man in the wheelchair, said to be in his late 20s to early 30s, rolled up to the bus. He then climbed aboard the shuttle, ditching the wheelchair he didn’t appear to need and drove off with four passengers remaining on board, McCarron said. The shuttle’s driver gave chase on foot without success, he added.

The shuttle’s passengers, police said, left to catch their flights immediately following the incident. Investigators are attempting to track them down to question them about the incident.

“He drove around the upper terminal twice and finally dropped off the bus at Terminal Three, and then fled,” McCarron said. The man, he said, was gone before police arrived.

The passengers were unharmed and nothing from the bus was taken, he said.

“The whole thing happened in a matter of minutes,” said McCarron, who called the incident one of the most bizarre in his 17 years with the airport.

“I have no idea why he did it,” he said. “Maybe he had a compelling need to drive a shuttle bus? Maybe it was a lifelong dream? I don’t know.”

San Francisco police and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the incident. The man, if found, will face charges of vehicle theft and kidnapping, sheriff’s Lt. Marc Alcantara said.

Vehicle thefts and carjackings have not been a major problem at SFO, McCarron said, since the airport added police and security cameras in the parking lots and terminal areas five years ago.

“[Vehicle thefts] used to be a problem in the parking lots, but it hasn’t happened in a while now,” McCarron said.

maldax@examiner.com

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