nothing to declare Cops who finally stopped young Dublin lads' famous 1980s New York adventure awarded
The boys (10 & 13) made headlines after they bunked off school and ended up New York
Two retired New York Port Authority police officers have been awarded for their actions in helping two young Dublin boys who made headlines in the 1980s after they bunked off school and ended up New York.
Keith Byrne was just 10 and his pal Noel Murray was 13 when they slipped aboard an Air India 747 jumbo jet at Heathrow Airport and flew across the Atlantic to New York City before being spotted by Sgt Kenneth White and Sgt Carl Harrison, his supervisor.
The extraordinary story for the lads’ adventure is told in a new 30-minute documentary Nothing to Declare which will be followed by a full feature movie.
Upon the release of the documentary, in which the two officers are interviewed, the Irish Echo award was presented to Harrison, of Masthope, Pike County, and White.
They were the officers who finally caught the two Dublin lads who had astonishingly evaded authorities up to that point.
The story had started on a Thursday when Byrne's mother had sent him to the shops to buy some potatoes. On his way back he met up with his friend, Murray.
Byrne recalls in the film: "So, we dropped the spuds off in the... house, and me ma says, 'Don't go too far, your dinner's nearly ready’. 'Yep, ma, no bother.' And we just set off."
After leaving Byrne’s home in Darndale, they "bunked" on a train that took them to the ferry in Dun Laoghaire.
After landing at Holyhead in Wales, the police caught them and sent them back on the return ferry, and called gardai. On the Friday morning, however, the boys gave them the slip and stayed aboard for the next trip back to Holyhead.
They followed the passengers and ended up on a train, minus any tickets, heading for London.
They ended up in central London, and took a bus after buying tickets this time and went to Heathrow Airport, where they found some food at self-serve restaurants, which they thought was free.
Neither of them had ever flown before but when someone pointed out a plane that was going to New York, they thought it was a chance to go and meet their hero, the famous ‘Mr T’ of the A-Team.
Following the crowd and telling the ticket agent their "ma was right behind them," they slipped aboard an Air India 747 jumbo jet.
"We were shown two seats," Byrne told The Daily Telegraph soon after they were back home. "I had never flown before. When I saw the clouds at first, I thought they were snow."
The flight attendants were very kind, and fed them dinner — curry and rice which they had never eaten before - and watched a James Bond movie and fell asleep.
The two stowaways then managed to get through customs until they were out of the terminal and walking for the exit at JFK.
It was then they were spotted by the two Port Authority officers.
"A lot of people had egg on their face," Harrison said, reflecting on the many security agents and other officials who were at a loss to explain how the pair got right past them.
They took the boys to a secure conference room to be interviewed.
Harrison said the youngest boy was the "ring leader." The boys thought this was all a joke and weren't giving straight answers, but Harrison read them the "riot act" and told them the seriousness of the situation.
He reminded them that they had people who cared for them, loved them and wanted them home safely.
Harrison said he asked the mother of the younger boy, Murray, 'How much do you love you son?' when she expressed surprise to hear where they had ended up.
Reflecting on the potential dangers and strangeness the city would have been to the boys, Harrison said if they had managed to walk out and leave the airport, "They would've been eaten alive."
An Air India jet had blown up over the Atlantic Ocean that June of 1985, on a flight from Montreal to London. All 329 people on board were killed.
The subsequent investigation linked the explosion to terrorism. This incident, only two months before the Irish boys' misadventure, caused a flurry of alarm, and the boys were interrogated about how they managed to slip through security.
Many people along the route had to be interviewed to patch the story together.
Sgt. White, in the film, stated, "As soon as I heard the brogue, I said, 'You know these kids didn't just come from the Bronx.'"
The Irish Echo newspaper, which was seeking law enforcement honourees for their upcoming awards dinner, learned about the film and the role Harrison and White played in engaging the two young stowaways.
Harrison and White were feted at the 13th Annual Irish Law & Order Awards hosted by the Irish Echo newspaper, at Rosie O'Gradys in New York City.
They were among 21 honourees that included police officers, corrections officers, law enforcement officers, lawyers working in the offices of district attorneys and professionals working within the Justice Department.
According to Irish Echo, the awards event seeks to honour men and women in law enforcement who "work hard to keep us safe and to keep society running smoothly."
"Det. Sgt. Kenneth White is to be commended for his actions that resulted in the safe return of the two youths," Harrison added. "We say, 'See something, say something.' He saw something and did something."
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