Flights were delayed for hours, traffic was backed up outside the terminal and armed police in riot gear boarded a Miami flight to Barbados over concerns that dental equipment posed a threat to passengers and pilots.
According to law enforcement sources on Tuesday, Transportation Security Administration workers at American Airlines Concourse D allowed a dentist through with a carry-on bag stocked with fillings and other dental supplies. It wasn’t until he boarded the flight just before 6 p.m. Monday that agents at the plane’s entrance became curious.
The flight from Miami International Airport to Bridgetown was ordered stopped and two security checkpoints were shut down as armed police wearing helmets boarded the plane and ordered passengers to put their hands on their heads. Much of the incident was captured on social media.
Witnesses said police quickly found the dentist, questioned him, searched his bag and eventually let him go. It was unclear Tuesday if the dentist, who hasn’t been named, made his flight. FBI spokesman Mike Leverock said that the man cooperated and faces no charges.
On Tuesday, the TSA clarified the incident and took blame for the delays. The agency said it allowed the passenger through the screening area before security officers got a good look inside his bag.
“In the process of transitioning other passengers to an adjacent screening lane, standard procedures were not adhered to and the passenger was allowed to depart the checkpoint and proceed into the terminal,” said TSA regional spokesman Mark Howell.
Howell said TSA ordered the gates to lock down until the passenger was located. Then a manual inspection was done and officers determined there was no threat. Howell said the agency is reviewing its response to the incident.
Several major airports across the world and in major cities throughout the United States have upped security since Russia’s Metrojet flight 9268 went down over Egypt two weeks ago. The incident is believed to have been caused by an explosion aboard the plane.
Monday’s incident at MIA affected 50 incoming and outgoing flights and shut down two concourses for nearly three hours. Nine flights were diverted. Traffic was so backed up that passengers said they got out of cars and walked to the ramp with their luggage.
Cheri F. McGuire, who posted photos and video of the incident on her Twitter account, said after Americal Airlines Flight 2393 spent two hours on the tarmac, she and other passengers were ordered off the plane. By 9 p.m. everything was back to normal at MIA.