Two passengers arrested for trespassing Sunday at airport

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 | 10:10 a.m. CDT; updated 6:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 30, 2013

COLUMBIA — Two passengers who intentionally boarded a plane through an unsecured door were removed and arrested on charges of first degree trespass Sunday morning at Columbia Regional Airport.

Katie Mendez, 33, of California, and Martin Mendez-Costabel, 36, of California, got on an American Airlines aircraft through a door at the airline's ticket counter, according to information from the Columbia Public Works Department and the Columbia Police Department.

Airport Public Safety was notified by a contracted private grounds service that the passengers had valid tickets but invalid boarding passes, so the couple were removed from the plane and arrested, Public Works spokesman Steven Sapp said.

Through interviews with the two passengers, safety officers learned that the passengers were purposefully searching for a way onto the tarmac without going through security, Sapp said.

Mendez and Mendez-Costabel were released on signature bonds, which means they could go as long as they promise to show up in court. If they do not, they'll have to pay a fine.

The FBI was notified, but there was no response, Sapp said.

Transportation Security Administration officials rechecked the luggage, aircraft and remaining passengers and found nothing. The flight left about an hour behind schedule.

Airport Public Safety is addressing the issue with the airline and made sure the door had been secured.

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