By Andrea Romano
Updated: September 17, 2018
Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images

One person’s “idiotic mistake” ended up canceling hundreds of flights and inconveniencing thousands of passengers at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport on Sunday.

According to the Arizona Republic, a man left a four-door silver Nissan unattended and idling curbside near Terminal 4, prompting police to investigate the vehicle. Authorities called a tow truck after about 25 minutes.

When the tow truck arrived at the scene, its driver was told to wait as the bomb squad used a bomb-defusing robot to determine whether the car was simply left behind by some hurried or absent-minded passenger. The car was investigated for four hours before policed determined there was no threat.

Other travelers in the terminals, including those waiting for the airport’s SkyTrain shuttle service, were left waiting as the airport came to a complete standstill. Even passengers traveling to Phoenix from other locations were held at their departing airports, stated the Arizona Republic.

Around 10 a.m. an airport employee made announcements to passengers that all flights had stopped momentarily, said one traveler, Janet Cappo. Shuttle trains began to resume just over an hour later.

It’s unclear when the driver of the Nissan finally came out of the terminal to reclaim his vehicle, but Richard Polanco Jr., the tow truck driver, noted to the Arizona Republic that the man was still talking to police as he was hooking the car up to his truck over five hours later. The front hood and trunk were ripped open and windows were left shattered.

According to Polanco’s conversation with the man, he thought he had only been away for a few minutes to help his girlfriend check into her flight. By the time he came back out, the bomb squad had already torn into the car.

“He was just bummed out that for something so small — an idiotic mistake he made — turned into such a big deal,” said Polanco.

Despite the man’s “mistake” causing many people to miss their flights and over 300 delays, police have only issued a traffic citation that comes with a fee of $56. It’s undetermined whether the driver will also have to pay for damages to his car and for the towing fee.

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