Police: TSA officer dead after jumping from balcony at OIA
A Transportation Security Administration officer died Saturday after police said he jumped from a Hyatt Regency Hotel balcony into an open area inside the Orlando International Airport.
The man, who was in his 40s, had just clocked out of work, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said. He was in critical condition when police arrived and died at a hospital.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer’s family, friends and everyone in our TSA family,” Koshetz said in an email.
The incident happened about
9:30 a.m. near the east checkpoint, which funnels to gates 70 through
129, airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said in a statement.
The sight sent “a wave of screams” through the atrium, Cathy Imburgia, who was in line for TSA PreCheck when the incident happened, said.
“There were children in line,” she said. “It was awful.”
In the ensuing chaos, some passengers scattered into the area beyond the security checkpoint, Koshetz said.
Imburgia, of Delaware, said she and others were ushered through security and out of the airport.
Meanwhile, all flights to and from gates 70 through 129 were halted and some passengers already on board were asked to deplane.
Southwest Airlines had canceled 49 arriving flights and 45 departing flights by Saturday afternoon, according to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
“Three hours of chaos” later, after returning inside the packed lobby and through security, Imburgia said she made it to her gate.
Upstairs, the confusion sparked rumors among hotel guests of a bomb threat or shooting, said James Shaw, who is staying at the Hyatt this weekend while his
6-year-old daughter competes in a dance competition there.
While Shaw was making his way back from his hotel room on the 10th floor to the competition, he said he walked past the officer, who was standing on the balcony ledge.
He said he assumed the man was looking for something.
“At first I thought it was strange, like anyone would,” Shaw, of Safety Harbor, said.
When Shaw stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor, “that’s when you heard the boom,” he said.
“I can’t believe I didn’t say anything to him,” Shaw said. “I was 4 feet from him… I thought he was there for a reason.”
Some local politicians took to social media Saturday, offering condolences to airport workers and the man’s family.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, DKissimmee, said on Twitter news of the apparent suicide “only adds
to tragedy experienced at [OIA]” coming off a difficult month for the federal workers, who “already suffered so much during the [government shutdown].”
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, DWinter Park, recognized the security officers for having “some of the toughest jobs... these public servants often sacrifice a lot in order to keep us safe at our nation’s airports,” the congresswoman, DWinter Park, said on Twitter.
“My thoughts today are with his family and coworkers, and I wish them well during this difficult time,” she said in the post.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255 if you need help.
A TSA officer died Saturday after police said he jumped from a Hyatt Regency Hotel balcony into an open area inside the Orlando International Airport.