U.S. Army Pvt. Travis T. King had finished serving time in detention in South Korea and was being escorted to the airport to fly home and likely face disciplinary action. But he never made it to his plane.

Instead, he passed alone through security to his departure gate and then fled, one official said. The Korea Times, citing an airport official, reported that King told airline workers he couldn't board his flight because his passport was missing.

From there, King, 23, somehow joined a civilian tour of the heavily fortified demilitarized zone dividing South Korea and the North, where he bolted across the border on Tuesday as American and South Korean guards shouted "Get him!" — but to no avail.