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Questions raised after security officer leaps off balcony

February 6, 2019 Headline News No Comments

Flights were grounded and all passengers re-screened after an airport security officer jumped from the balcony of a high-rise hotel into the atrium of a major US international airport, triggering panic and chaos.

The tragedy, categorised as a suicide, happened at Orlando International Airport on Saturday and involved an officer of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

It forced the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground all flights, triggering major delays and “massive” queues at the airport.

After hearing a loud crash and cries, passengers sprinted for cover when TSA officers yelled “run!” No one knew quite what was going on.

Authorities closed down all security checkpoints and rescreened passengers as a precaution. Some passengers had scattered past security areas without being screened and others had passed through while screeners were distracted by the commotion.

The Orlando Police Department said the deceased TSA officer, who had just finished a morning shift, jumped from an upper floor of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport Hotel, which is located inside the main terminal of the airport, one of America’s most popular with holidaymakers. The man was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

FlightAware tracking software indicates the event delayed about 100 flights from the airport and led to the cancellation of 45 flights. Many incoming flights were also delayed. Orlando International Airport handled 47.7 million passengers last year.

The shocking incident has security implications. Airport terminals incorporating towering hotels, or overlooked by them, present challenges if people try to throw things – let alone jump or use weapons.

As one person commented on Twitter: “These are hotel windows… overlooking an airport terminal…? How secure can that be?”

That’s a good point – and Orlando International Airport is not alone. At Denver International Airport in September, a senior United Airlines pilot is said to have been “dancing naked, gyrating and waving” from the window of the Westin Hotel, watched by a crowd of passengers inside the terminal plaza.

The United pilot denies a charge of indecent exposure following that bizarre episode and says the first he knew of any problem was when a squad of police, with guns drawn, banged at the door of his hotel room to arrest him. See: Gun-toting cops beat on door to arrest naked airline pilot

The police report says: “The suspect did open the window to his hotel room, which overlooks the hotel plaza, and in full view of the public did stand in his window fully nude, exposing himself and his genitalia to the general public.”

Having hotel windows overlooking crowded airport terminals can present challenges – and nudity is the least of them.

Written by Peter Needham

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