TSA agent spills cremation ashes, laughs about it

Two Updates below.

We’ve had yet another incident of a TSA agent humiliating and disrespecting a passenger.

At Orlando airport in Florida, John Gross was transporting his grandfather’s ashes in an urn marked “Human Remains.” As he told the IndyChannel in his hometown of Indianapolis:

“They opened up my bag, and I told them, ‘Please, be careful. These are my grandpa’s ashes.’ She picked up the jar. She opened it up.

“I was told later on that she had no right to even open it, that they could have used other devices, like an X-ray machine. So she opened it up. She used her finger and was sifting through it. And then she accidentally spilled it.”

Gross says about a quarter to a third of the contents spilled on the floor, leaving him frantically trying to gather up as much as he could.

But that wasn’t bad enough. The TSA had to make it worse.

“She didn’t apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments. I couldn’t pick up all, everything that was lost. I mean, there was a long line behind me.”

This story has been picked up not only all over the country, but all over the world.

This isn’t the first time the TSA has been accused of tampering with cremated remains.

The TSA’s website indicates that passengers may travel with cremated remains, with restrictions:

Out of respect to the deceased and their family and friends, under no circumstances will an officer open the container even if the passenger requests this be done. Documentation from the funeral home is not sufficient to carry a crematory container through security and onto a plane without screening.

You may transport the urn as checked baggage provided that it is successfully screened. We will screen the urn for explosive materials/devices using a variety of techniques; if cleared, it will be permitted as checked baggage only.

Point of confusion: since checked baggage is — er — checked, it doesn’t go through TSA screening with the passenger at the checkpoint. So, under these rules, how can a passenger “carry a crematory container through security and onto a plane”?

Then we have this gem:

Some airlines do not allow cremated remains as checked baggage so please check with your air carrier before attempting to transport a crematory container in checked baggage.

That’s kind a Catch-22, don’t you think? We, the TSA demand that you check the container, but some airlines won’t let you check the container.

Regardless, the TSA agent in Orlando behaved disgracefully. Wonder how long before the agency trots out its standard line: “TSA strives to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect.”

Dignity and respect?

John Gross says he wants an apology. I’d say he’s owed more than that. I’d say we all are.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Yukata Tsutano)


UPDATE: The TSA propaganda machine is already spinning:

Jim Fotenos, a TSA public affairs officer, issued a statement that said the agency’s review “concluded that the circumstances as described in some reports are inconsistent with what we believe transpired.”

But of course. The TSA doesn’t admit it’s wrong. Its employees routinely bully, harass, intimidate, rob, and assault passengers, but “proper procedures” are always followed. Why should this occasion be any different?

Incidentally, here’s the Florida criminal code on tampering with human remains. Looks like some charges might be in order.


ANOTHER UPDATE:  What did I tell you? Blogger Bob has already denied it:

Blogger Bob said…
Containers with remains (ashes) are never opened. Initial review concludes circumstances described are inconsistent with what happened.

Blogger Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team
June 26, 2012 7:50 PM