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Travelers Left To Find Luggage In Free-For-All At JFK

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Chaos continued Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport, as thousands remained without their luggage days after snow closed the airport and a water pipe broke at one of the main terminals.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, unclaimed luggage was still everywhere at the airport Wednesday. Some of it was covered with salt stains as if it had been left of the tarmac.

Meanwhile, passengers were left wandering around looking for their belongings.

There was little security at the baggage claim area, where passengers from flights arriving Wednesday mixed with those who landed over the weekend in an attempt to find their suitcases. Some likely weren't sure if they took the right ones, and they were left in a state of utter frustration.

"I'm pissed!" said Richard Bobrow of Westport, Connecticut.

CBS2 cameras caught some of the upheaval as airline workers coped as best they could behind a gray wall divider, and in a baggage office across the way. Sources told CBS2 that 5,000 suitcases had not been returned to their owners.

Bobrow was trying in vain Wednesday to find his son Dylan's suitcase. He was told it could not be located because it hadn't been scanned yet, even though he landed early on Sunday morning from St. Kitts.

"We don't know where the bag is. They told us to look in that group out there, but it's not there, so it's somewhere else," Bobrow said. "Where, we don't know. A supervisor's trying to help him now."

Bobrow was furious.

"I'm really pissed," he said. "I think it's total incompetence. Why they don't have 50 people working here to help figure this out? I don't know."

Karen Hunter of Brooklyn landed Saturday and was just as angry.

"I am so upset, because I need my stuff to get to work," she said.

So was Derek Jasienowitz of Greenwich, Connecticut, who laded Sunday.

"We have been angry everybody, you know? Whoever came from the plane," he said. "We don't have any news. I've been trying to reach the airline switchboard in the terminal -- no answer, no phone pickupping, no information, so I've got to come personally. It's frustrating,"

As CBS2's Valerie Castro reported, the piles of bags were smaller than they had been in recent prior days by the time Wednesday night came around. But that did not mean passengers still looking for their belongings were any less frustrated.

"Got here Sunday and sat on the tarmac for I don't know how many hours," said John Niel of Connecticut.

Niel looked around for his wife's luggage with the help of an employee, but had no luck.

"They told us to go to the switchboard, and the fellow we gave the tag to -- he can't find it here, so he went somewhere else," Niel said, "so we don't know if he's going to find it."

Sol Rosado of Philadelphia flew to the Dominican Republic last weekend. When she got there, she was told her bag never even left New York

Her trip was for a family funeral. Even that had to be postponed after the storm affected flights.

"There was seven of us stuck. We had our flight canceled four times. The people who were supposed to claim the body were still stuck here, so they had to buy a separate flight from another agency," Rosado said.

She flew back Wednesday, but with no sign of her luggage.

"I've looked in all the piles -- this pile, there's two more piles down there -- and they said, 'Look if you can see it,'" Rosado said. "But it's like, how can you find it?"

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was also frustrated, calling the situation "unacceptable."

"We share the public's outrage and have directed the airlines to have all bags out of JFK and on their way to customers by day's end," a spokesman said in a statement.

Late Wednesady afternoon, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he will lead an investigation into the debacles of the past week at JFK. He will then report his findings to the Port Authority.

LaHood will take a close look at what preparations were made leading up the winter storm last week, and will also investigate the burst pipe that caused more chaos days later.

"The Port Authority leadership has asked me to lead a comprehensive investigation into the recent events at JFK Airport, looking at every aspect of what went wrong and making recommendations about what must be fixed," LaHood said said in a statement from the Port Authority. "I look forward to beginning my investigation."

Delta Airlines, one of the major carriers at Terminal 4 at JFK, said it hoped to clear the baggage backlog Wednesday night. But some passengers told Kramer they were told they would not get their luggage until Thursday.

Meanwhile, CBS2 watched Wednesday night as workers loaded up bags into a van, apparently to be shipped back to their owners. It seems the storm at JFK has almost passed.

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