​TSA Spills Grandfather Ashes and Laughs, Man Demands Apology

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June 30, 2012

A traveler leaving Orlando for Indiana says the TSA spilled his grandfather’s ashes and then laughed about the incident as if it was nothing, but now John Gross is demanding that the screener apologize for his conduct.

Gross, 30, is also demanding that the TSA release any security surveillance tapes of the incident, tapes that the federal agency said simply don’t exist.

He was returning home from visiting family in Orlando, Florida, on June 19, carrying with him a portion of his grandfather’s ashes that had been passed along by an uncle — a “real sentimental kind of guy,” said Gross — when he approached TSA screeners. A female agent wearing blue latex gloves inspected the contents of his bag, including the jar clearly labeled “Human Remains.”

“I said, ‘Please be careful, these are my grandpa’s ashes,'” Gross told CNN Wednesday. But, he said, the agent proceeded to stick her finger in the jar then accidentally spilled its contents on the airport floor.

She then laughed, according to Gross, not an uproarious cackle, but a chuckle that he found offensive nonetheless.

While not directly contradicting Gross, the TSA said it believes his sequence of events is incorrect.

“Our initial review concluded that the circumstances as described in some reports are inconsistent with what we believe transpired,” an initial statement from the TSA said.

That pronouncement prompted Gross, who said he would otherwise be content to drop his contention, to once again assail the agency.

“I don’t want this to continue,” he said Wednesday in an interview with CNN, but “now I’m really heated because the TSA is coming back and saying there’s inconsistencies in the reports.”

The TSA statement added that “under no circumstances should a container holding remains be opened.”

TSA spokesman David Castelveter said Tuesday that there is no surveillance video relevant to the episode, and the agency followed that on Wednesday by adding that the security cameras in question are being upgraded.

The situation calmed later Wednesday, after Gross said he received what he viewed as a “sincere” and “heartfelt” apology from a TSA administrator, but he was still bothered by the federal agency’s public declaration that his story had “inconsistencies” with what the TSA said happened. And he still wanted “the apology from the person who did it …”