ST. LOUIS -- A traveler fleeing security police at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport after he commandeered an electric cart apparently hid from his pursuers in a trash compactor and was crushed to death, authorities said.
Joseph Rutherford Jr., 25, of Memphis, Tenn., suffered fatal head and neck injuries when he was crushed at least once by the compactor, which apparently went into operation after his body triggered an electric eye while passing through the chute, authorities said.
The accident occurred shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday at the airport after Rutherford and three co-workers arrived on a Trans World Airlines flight from Memphis, said Airport Police Capt. Edward Longinette.
Rutherford and his companions were heading to Sioux City, Iowa, to attend a training seminar on heavy construction equipment, Longinette said.
Members of the group were drinking on the flight, Longinette said. A TWA flight attendant estimated Rutherford drank five or six miniature bottles of bourbon, he said.
As the group was passing through the airport's concourse looking for its connecting flight, Rutherford jumped onto a parked electric cart and began driving through the concourse, authorities said.
Rutherford's friends, passers-by and security officers tried to stop him, Longinette said.
Rutherford drove about 200 feet, stopped and ran inside a maintenance room containing a trash compactor, airport police said.
Officer Robert Moton searched the room but was unable to find Rutherford, Longinette said. Minutes later, Moton again searched the room and found Rutherford had slid down an 18-inch aluminum chute into the trash compactor.
It took firefighters 10 minutes to remove Rutherford from the trash chute, and paramedics administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the way to DePaul Medical Center in the suburb of Bridgeton, police said.
Rutherford died at the hospital at 5:40 p.m., authorities said.