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Sun, Jan 21, 2007

Airport Security Issue From A Naughty Nine-Year Old

Sneaks Onto Flights, Almost Makes All His Connections

Only 4'9" and 80 pounds, nine-year old Semaj Booker has federal and airline officials scratching their heads after he slipped onto two flights on his journey to Texas from Seattle last week.

Southwest Airlines said Friday their investigation is continuing on how the youngster passed through airport security and onto flights from Seattle to Phoenix, and from Phoenix to San Antonio.

Booker, reported to have been trying to reach his grandfather in Dallas, is also accused of leading police on a high-speed chase last Sunday in a stolen car.

"This is such an unusual situation, there's a lot of facets to it that we're looking into," airline spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said Friday to the Associated Press.

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., has asked the TSA to determine how the boy secured another passenger's name to get on board.

"As Norm says, we spend billions of dollars inconveniencing the American public and making things safe -- we think," said Dicks' spokesman George Behan. "Then a 9-year old comes walking through."

The TSA is working with Southwest to uncover more details, said TSA spokesperson Jennifer Peppin.

She noted that Booker had the proper boarding pass necessary to clear federal screening. How he came about getting that pass from Southwest was "their issue."

Southwest said Wednesday the boy was issued a boarding pass at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after giving information that matched a reservation and telling employees his mother was already in the boarding area.

As of Friday, Booker was being held at a center for runaways in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.

Airline employees stopped him from boarding another flight from San Antonio to Dallas when he could not explain why he did not have a boarding pass, said David Hebert, the San Antonio International Airport spokesman.

The boy probably will remain at the center until his grandfather or another guardian can take custody of him, said Fred Wist, a prosecutor in Washington State's Pierce County.

FMI: www.southwest.com, www.tsa.gov

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