Plane aborts takeoff at LAX after employee drives car onto runway

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a frightening near miss at LAX, an airport vehicle mistakenly turned onto the runway and almost drove into an airplane full of passengers.

The incident occurred at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday. A Delta Airlines connection flight was forced to abort its takeoff when tower alarms alerted air traffic control that a vehicle was driving toward the plane.

The potential collision was avoided after the pilot punched the brakes and pulled off the runway with the car just 3,500 feet away. Seventy-eight people were aboard the jet.

LAX officials confirm the person behind the wheel of that vehicle was an airport employee. That person had authorization to drive on service roads - the ones used by catering and baggage trucks - but was not authorized to drive near actual runways.

The worker was slapped with a citation on the spot and got airfield driving privileges taken away.

There are cameras aimed at the airfield - but video of the incident has not been released by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Meanwhile, air traffic controllers were dealing with two other issues around the same time - one emergency landing due to an on-board cardiac arrest and another due to a mechanical issue.

The Delta plane eventually circled back around and departed LAX about an hour later without incident.

The airport's public relations director said what happened Tuesday was rare.

The FAA is investigating the incident.

The system that alerted the control tower about the car tracks the movements of vehicles and planes to help cut down on runway incursions. In this case, it worked. The same system is used at several large airports around the country.

ABC News contributed to this report.
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