TSA agent pokes fingers in ashes of traveler's dead grandfather, spills them on floor, cackles

Indianapolis resident John Gross was going through TSA security in the Orlando, Florida airport, carrying the cremated ashes of his Sicilian grandfather "in a tightly sealed jar marked 'Human Remains." TSA rules say that this sort of material in carry-on baggage must be labeled, and go through the X-ray machine, but that human remains are to be opened under “no circumstances.” Guess what happened? According to Gross, an idiot TSA agent ignored the agency's own rules, and caused the ashes to be spilled on the terminal floor.

"They opened up my bag, and I told them, 'Please, be careful. These are my grandpa's ashes,'" Gross told RTV6's Norman Cox. "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 while anxious passengers waited behind him.

"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."

Gross says he wants “an apology from the lady who opened the jar and laughed at me."

More from the local ABC News affiliate in Indianapolis.

There's video here. More at the Orlando Sentinel.

Update: He got an apology, sort of. Conveniently, the TSA has lost surveillance video of the incident.

Gross said a high-ranking TSA official contacted him to empathize because of what transpired at the airport. He said the official claims that TSA cannot locate video of his exchange with the security worker. “I got the apology, but I got it from the wrong person,” Gross said.

Cory blogged about the incident when news first broke.



  1. It’s no excuse, but nervous laughter could be a normal response to having done something this insensitive and stupid.

    1. This really doesn’t apply to grown adults who are in a professional environment where interacting with people is at the heart of their public service duties.

      1. …a professional environment where interacting with people is at the heart of their public service duties.

        No, she works at the TSA.

        But I do know what silkox is on about. Do something appalling, neurotic laughter kicks in, then you know you’re behaving even more inappropriately, which makes you laugh even harder, and finally the only thing you can do is strip search the passenger and add them to the No Fly List.

  2. I feel bad for Mr. Gross, and indignant about the idiotic ‘failure to follow guidelines’ actions of the TSA agent in question – but I’m very grateful she wasn’t a necrophiliac.

  3. Update: TSA conveniently lose the video of the incident.

    “Gross said a high-ranking TSA official contacted him to empathize because of what transpired at the airport. He said the official claims that TSA cannot locate video of his exchange with the security worker.”and:”TSA maintains its position that the circumstances, as explained by the passenger, are inconsistent with what we believe transpired.”
    this from http://www.pal-item.com/article/20120630/NEWS01/306300012/Ex-Richmond-man-Grandpa-s-ashes-spilled-at-airport

    1. Well that’s good news at least. If the TSA can’t be punished for dumping human ashes on the floor, surely they can at least be penalised for losing security footage, being airport security and all.

    2. They just happened to lose the one video where they misbehave? Too bad, because I think that’s the one where 5 guys slip by everyone in the background twiddling their mustaches and grinning.

  4. “human remains are to be opened under “no circumstances.””

    I really hope that’s not true. Any sort of blanket exemption just opens the door for abuse by ne’er-do-wells.

    1. LoLlLerS, I wondered how long it would be before one arrived to warn of terrorist plots involving jars labelled human remains that actually hold cocaine that actually hold explosives when the drug mule is tricked by Al Kay-duh and the gang.

      Elapsed time was 3hrs 56 minutes.

      1.  Oh, yeah?  Who will be laughing when somebody smuggles the ASHES OF A TERRORIST on board, huh?  Mark Wahlberg can’t be on every flight to protect us!

        1. Steward – “Captain, an ephemeral form appeared to me in the aisle and demanded control of the craft. Should I tell the Air Marshall?”

          Captain – “No.”

          Co-pilot – “Fucking ghosts”

          Steward – “IKR!”

        1. So if it’s x-rayed and is perceived as a result as something other than claimed, they open it?, a sealed container of powdered substance?

          That is not an obvious reason, that is an obvious fail. These can often be located behind the terms “Of course, naturally and everybody knows”

  5. I’m w. Brooklyn Imbecile, who’s comment was removed.

    -abs believes in the power of the human flesh search

  6. http://xkcd.com/651/
    The only people who can rein in the TSA are the airlines. Solution get the TSA to ban laptops in the cabin. The blow back from business travel will get the airlines to whack them upside the head. Maybe we could even ride that wave to real reform. 

    What, a man can dream can’t he.

  7. BTW, I flew from Tel Aviv to Seattle via Newark a few weeks ago. Tel Aviv: kept shoes and belt on through security, no pornoscanner. In Newark, had to remove shoes and belt and go through pornoscanner.

  8. “Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.”
    Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials

    I will not subject myself nor my family to needless radiation exposure nor TSA molestation. My family and I will not be flying until the TSA changes these procedures.

    T – Terrorists
    S – Searching
    A – Americans

    1. And let’s not forget Stop and Frisk. (I wonder how to boycott that? Just don’t go to NYC, I guess.)

  9. Clearly it is every citizen’s responsibility to video record their experiences at security checkpoints.  Just to help out the TSA, you know.  Just in case they “can’t find” their tapes if something happens.  Come on folks, it’s the least we can do for these folks “guarding our safety.”

    1.  If I remember correctly, you are not allowed to tape any “security measures” or “sensitive areas”. They would just confiscate your camera and ban you from the airport (or at least they would try).

      1. It is, in fact, a felony to record TSA procedures, if I’m not mistaken.  (This might have come up in an interview with Penn Jillette – he wanted to do an episode of Bullshit! about airport security, but the actual production process would have sent them all to jail.)

  10. That woman is no lady! Don’t expect any kind of humane response from her or from any of TSA’s henchmen.

    They lost the video? How convenient!

    If TSA can’t even keep track of their security tapes, how are they going to catch a terrorist?

  11. My wife flew out of a small airport here in our commonwealth today and sure enough, pornoscanners. I remember the local ‘news teams’ reciting the praises of the ‘new security’ several months ago, seemingly directly from the TSA PR sheets. I was furious, and standing there behind the glass with our three children as she was told to lift her arms and ‘pose’. I apparently looked so angry that several uniformed ‘agents’ huddled together, sneaking glances at me, so I stepped back and huddled with the kids. No action was made, but I’ll bet if I’d been trying to board a plane I would have faced the wrath of ‘You’re not flying out of here today, mister’ which is the only real power the half-pint security guards really wield. As I sit here and read this now I’m infuriated again, having been reminded of the goddamn radiation those things put out; my wife’s family has a history of cancer, so in order to go and visit her family in another part of the U.S. she has to be subjected to an increased risk? What the hell’s happened to this country?

    1. If by “commonwealth” you mean the new Oz scanners, rest assured that here in Australia our intrusive and ineffectual scanners are THz, not X-Ray.  You may have your time wasted, and your privacy invaded, but you are not being ionised.

    2.  Wait, you guys can’t opt out?  That’s messed up.  We had to fly recently and I wouldn’t let my wife or kid go through them.

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