NEW YORK — Five French tourists got a harrowing start to their New York visit: a wild police chase.
As they looked for a ride at the Air France terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday morning, the visitors were lured to a van that was not licensed to provide taxi service, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman John Kelly said.
Plainclothes police recognized the man who enticed the tourists, Ian McFarland, as a repeat offender previously arrested for corralling passengers into unlicensed cars. A Port Authority officer reached inside the van to try and grab the keys, but the driver, Khaalis Preacher, sped off with the tourists inside, knocking the officer to the ground, Kelly said.
Port Authority police sped after the van, which snaked through residential streets and traveled about seven miles through two boroughs before it crashed through a gate at a U.S. Postal Service facility in the East New York section of Brooklyn.
The tourists said they were terrified and screamed and prayed during the chase.
“I am shocked. The whole thing was quite bizarre. We were very frightened,” Paris resident Esther-Ethy Mamane, 26, told the New York Post. “It was like something from a film.”
Mamane’s mother tried to jump from the van while it was still moving and injured her arm. She was treated at a hospital and released. Mamane and the other passengers, a woman and her parents, were not injured.
Police say Preacher and McFarland jumped out while the van was still moving. The two were arrested on charges of unlawful solicitation, criminal trespass and possibly other charges, Kelly said. It wasn’t clear if they had attorneys.
Gwen Dulugat, 27, also from Paris, said the van was going very fast.
“We’re going zoom, zoom, zoom,” she told the Post. “The police were fantastic. They were behind us all the time. And we were very lucky not to crash into any cars.”