​TSA Ashes Scattered In Luggage Prompts Major Lawsuit

Author: Jennifer HongBy:
Staff Reporter
Oct. 6, 2014

The TSA ashes case was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court by Shannon Thomas, who alleges that agents were in the wrong.

Thomas is suing the TSA for $750,000 over the ashes that she alleges were all over her suitcase and clothes after agents mishandled an urn inside her luggage.

The Cleveland man boarded the flight bound for Puerto Rico with a plan to fulfill his mother’s dying wish. But the TSA ashes incident ruined it as Thomas was on his way to scatter them in the pristine waters of the Caribbean Sea. He is asking for $750,000.

The suit, which requests a jury trial, claims Transportation Security Administration agents, “negligently, carelessly, and recklessly replaced the lid of the urn, placed a bag inspection notice in Plaintiff’s suitcase, and sent the bag on its way.”

Thomas argues that no one from the agency apologized for the incident. Court papers read:

“No person speaking on behalf of the United States or TSA has ever issued an apology, explanation, or notification to Plaintiff aside from the bag search notice.”

His Oct. 5, 2012 trip on United Airlines from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport connected through Dulles and reached San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thomas said the checked bag containing the screw-top urn — and extra padding — was opened and inspected against TSA guidelines.

All urns are subject to screening, but TSA guidelines do not permit an officer to open the item, the suit said. A notice of inspection was left in the bag.

The TSA ashes suit has prompted the agency to post a statement, which reads:

“The subject of traveling with crematory remains has been in the news recently. As part of our standard operating procedures, TSA has a clear process for screening crematory remains. Our Officers routinely conduct these types of screenings throughout our nation’s airports.”

The agency said that passengers may transport crematory remains as part of their carry-on property or checked baggage. Some airlines do not allow crematory remains as checked baggage, so check with your airline first.

“If carrying on the crematory remains, they are subject to screening and must pass through the X-ray machine. If the X-ray Operator cannot clear the remains, TSA may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm. Under no circumstances will an officer open the container, even if the passenger requests this be done. If the officer cannot determine that the container does not contain a prohibited item, the remains will not be permitted.”

The TSA wrote that they understand the emotional stress passengers may be under when transporting the remains of a loved one. They have posted a set of guidelines on their site for traveling with ashes, or crematory remains. But they do further explain why an urn needs to be checked.

“However, crematory remains are one of the many sensitive items that could be exploited by someone wanting to conceal a dangerous item.”

The TSA ashes suit will probably be one that either ends with an official apology, or a ruling to give Shannon Thomas $750,000 for his emotional distress. The incident happened almost 2 years ago, so he will have to explain why he waited so long to file suit. The TSA is not commenting on the case since it’s a pending lawsuit.

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