A TSA agent in Florida broke protocol in dealing with a family member's cremated ashes, and the mistake led to the worst-case-scenario: the ashes ended up spilled on the floor at the security checkpoint.
The incident happened recently while John Gross was traveling from Orlando, Florida, to Indiana with the remains of his grandfather, Mario Mark Marcaletti. The jar, he says, was tightly sealed and marked "Human Remains." But when he got to the screening checkpoint, a TSA agent decided that she had to open the jar and inspect the remains, a clear violation of procedure.
"They opened up my bag, and I told them, 'Please, be careful. These are my grandpa's ashes,'" Gross told RTV6. "She picked up the jar. She opened it up.
"She used her finger and was sifting through it," he added. "And then she accidentally spilled it."
"She didn't apologize," he explained. "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." He said he lost about a quarter to a third of the contents.
"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," he said.
And he's right. According to the TSA website, agents are not allowed to open cremation containers under any circumstances:
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.
The only time an urn is not allowed through is if it is too opaque to successfully pass through the x-ray machine. Even then, it should not be opened.
Now, Gross wants an apology, both from the TSA and especially the agent who laughed off her mistake.