OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) As authorities begin scouring the crime scene where a gunman opened fire in the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday, families of the victims come to grips with the tragedy. Five people died, others were injured and scores bear the emotional scars.
WOWT 6 News can now confirm a Council Bluffs couple was among the victims. A source tells our sister station Michael and Kari Oehme were shot. Kari was injured in the shooting, and Michael was killed. A witness tells us the couple was about to go on a cruise.
The witness, Mark Lea, recounted the scene and said, “They start screaming, yelling and running for the exits that were close by to them."
The suspect, identified as Esteban Santiago, reportedly flew from Alaska to Minneapolis and then on to Fort Lauderdale where he allegedly retrieved a gun from his luggage and began shooting randomly into the crowd.
Lea said, “We were down at baggage claim to just pick up our bags and get ready to wheel them out toward the hotel shuttles and kind of heard three quick bursts of what, initially, I thought was a firecracker."
It wasn't long before Lea says he raced back inside the airport comforting victims he says have a local connection - they're from Council Bluffs.
“Did not know her any way, shape or form,” Lea said. “I saw that she was down and injured in a pool of blood, which was hers and just stopped to help and console her and kind of minimize her from going further into shock."
According to Lea, the woman he helped said she was on the way to a cruise with her husband. While Lea did what he could to keep that woman calm, he kept a close eye on the situation, “watching where the shooter was, what he was doing and kind of staying out of his line of sight and more importantly his line of fire."
It all came to a quick and quiet end. “Probably about two dozen shots,” he said. “Lasted about 45 seconds until he kind of walked back to where he initially was shooting, dropped his gun, went down on the ground face down."
Lea said it took several hours before those inside the airport were able to even leave. Now he's in the midst of thousands of passengers stuck, not knowing where he'll be staying next, “moving from airport to point b to go wherever you need to go from there."
Another traveler in the airport at the time of the shootings was Nancy Deckert, of Omaha. She was traveling with her mother, heading back to Omaha, when they heard popping noises in the distance.
"We were waiting for our plane,” Nancy said. “We had just got sat down when there were shots fired and people started running in a big stampede toward us to get out of the airport."