SAUGET, IL (KTVI) - A St. Louis woman is undergoing psychiatric tests after allegedly trying to steal a private jet from the St. Louis Downtown Airport in Sauget.
The 38-year-old, who has not been identified, pulled up to the gate of the Jet Aviation facility on the airport property a little after 4 am according to police. They say she convinced the guard, an employee of Jet Aviation that she worked there.
“They thought she was an employee,” Sauget Police Chief Pat Delaney said. “There’s about 900 people who work there. And so even at that hour of the morning there’s people coming and going in different times and I believe the security guard thought she worked there.”
She made her way onto the tarmac, and into one of the jets sitting there, a private jet owned by a Hong Kong bank. It was there for repair work at the Jet Aviation facility and had been disabled. Security noticed something was amiss because the steps were left down. The woman couldn’t figure out how to close them.
“She was in the cockpit,” Delaney said. “They said she was hitting toggle switches and buttons, trying to get the plane started.”
And where was she headed?
“She originally said China, and then she changed to that she wanted to fly to New York,” Delaney told reporters, but he didn’t know why. “She hasn’t made that clear. I will say she’s presently getting a psych evaluation in a local mental facility and she does have some serious mental issues.”
In fact, he says the woman’s psychiatrist told police that she is diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The doctor said he met with her two days ago and asked her to get back on her medication. She had gone without it for six weeks.
The woman had no training as a pilot, but had developed a working knowledge of planes through aviation magazines. Delaney believes, had the plane been operable, she might well have gotten it started.
“Tough to say, but it was clear talking to her in her interview in talking to her that she knows a little about planes. But she has no flying experience at all.”
When asked if she could have gotten it in the air, he responded, “I hope not. I hope not.”
Federal investigators were on the scene early, but quickly ruled out any terror connection, handing the case back over to Sauget officers. They took the woman to a hospital for evaluation, but that didn’t go off completely smoothly. The chief says the woman, who had been polite and docile, suddenly became frantic and jumped out of the ambulance. Officers had to subdue her and get her back inside.
The woman has no past criminal record according to police, and it’s unclear if she’ll be charged in this case. Police say prosecutors are waiting for a determination from psychiatrists examining her.
As for security at the airport, police say it’s being reviewed and they believe such a breech is unlikely to happen again.
A spokesperson for Jet Aviation wouldn’t comment on the fate of the security guard the woman allegedly duped, saying it’s too early in the investigation to draw a conclusion.