‘Unusual’ find at Salt Lake City airport prompts brief baggage shutdown, TSA travel reminder
Sep 30, 2023, 11:22 AM
(Photo: Transportation Security Administration)
SALT LAKE CITY — Transportation Security Administration agents working at Salt Lake City International Airport got quite a scare recently, which is now being used as a reminder of how someone should bring “unusual” items to an airport.
Agents using X-ray imaging to screen bags flagged a traveler’s luggage on the morning of Sept. 18 when they spotted what appeared to be a human skull, with “unidentifiable components inside” resembling some sort of an improvised explosive device, agency officials said Friday.
Salt Lake City police were called to work with an explosives specialist and an explosive detection K-9 to investigate, temporarily shutting down the airport’s baggage screening system for two hours.
It turns out it wasn’t a human skull, an explosive device or even a Halloween decoration. Agents located the passenger, who explained the skull is a medical training device that spine and neurosurgeons use to demonstrate how to conduct a lobotomy, and the traveler was bringing it to a trade show in Cancun, Mexico, TSA officials said.
Lobotomies, once a common way to treat mental health conditions, “fell out of favor” decades ago and aren’t performed in the United States, but there are some psychosurgeries still permitted today, even if rare, according to Healthline.
Agents decided to not allow the traveler to take the device on the plane, and held the device for the traveler to pick up upon returning to Salt Lake City.
“This incident and subsequent response is an example of how TSA must take every potential security threat seriously while making sure that the transportation system is not put at risk,” said Matt Davis, TSA’s federal security director for Utah, in a statement Friday. “I was pleased at the professionalism of everyone involved who worked closely to fully resolve the matter, to ensure that security was not compromised and to resume operations as quickly (as) possible.”
Davis said passengers should contact a TSA supervisor or manager upon arrival at an airport with a “highly unusual item” that could be flagged as a threat. The agency adds that passengers can also ask about their items online, including on social media.
“This will give TSA a preview of what will be screened and help avoid any potential suspension of screening,” agency officials added.