Monday, May 28, 2018
Public safety

Videos show last moments of man who died at Tampa airport

TAMPA — In the first video, they look lost. The man and woman walk down a Tampa International Airport hallway, talk to a woman vacuuming, then turn back, the man stumbling as he walks.

The man, airport police say, is Chad Wolfe, 31, the West Newton, Pa., mechanic who died mysteriously March 15 in an airport elevator shaft. The woman is his girlfriend, Jessica Price, who reported him missing about 1 a.m. that day.

She said she last saw him taking an elevator up to the terminal's seventh-floor parking garage. His body was found 10 hours later atop an elevator car on the first floor. His bags were on the seventh floor, where state inspectors later found the elevator door lock damaged, allowing it to be pried open by hand.

Thursday, after Transportation Security Administration approval, the airport released surveillance footage from that night. The clips appear to corroborate witness statements Wolfe acted erratically — in one he climbs atop a potted plant — but they don't show what happened on the seventh floor, where cameras were not aimed at elevators.

Investigators have no video showing how Wolfe got into the elevator shaft, and thus are still unsure if he damaged the elevator doors and his death was his fault, or if the doors were already damaged and his death an accident.

The first video starts at 12:31 a.m., just after Wolfe and Price got off their Delta flight. They planned to visit her parents in the Tampa area, according to Wolfe's father, Garland Wolfe, and then go to Daytona Beach for Bike Week.

Garland Wolfe disputes the idea that his son is to blame. He did tell police his son mixed the anti-anxiety medication Xanax with alcohol, according to airport police Chief Paul Sireci. Bottles of Xanax and vodka were found on Wolfe's body, and in one clip he can be seen taking a swig from a small bottle. Wolfe drank on the flight, witnesses said, then was refused service and became belligerent.

In the videos, Wolfe and Price are both dressed in black. She leads the way, and he lumbers behind with a bag strapped to his back. The last clip, at 12:36 a.m., shows six elevators. Price runs to one, its doors about to close. Wolfe lags behind and takes a different elevator. She pokes her head out, but he's already walking to the other one. Garland Wolfe said his son liked to go to the top floor of places he visited and smoke. Chad Wolfe appears to be smoking in the video, exhaling smoke before getting on the elevator.

The doors on the two elevators close a few seconds apart. Her car heads down to the first floor. His heads up to the seventh.

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