Unplugged Metal Detector Forces Evacuation at JFK Airport

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Passengers walk through the halls of John F. Kennedy airport in New York, New York.

Hundreds of passengers at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport were forced to go through security for a second time after a TSA agent realized his metal detector has been unplugged – for hours.

For two hours early Sunday morning, New York’s Port Authority was forced to call for a complete evacuation of JFK’s Terminal 7 – which handles the airport’s international flights – in order to clear and secure the building. Two planes on the runway were also ordered to return so that passengers could be rescreened at a working detector, and several other flights were delayed.

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Here’s how it went down, according to the New York Post:

The chaos at Terminal 7 was caused by screener Alija Abdul Majed, who had manned Lane No. 1 during the morning shift with no idea his metal detector had no juice, sources said.

Amazingly, he failed to realize that alert lights never flashed once as streams of passengers filed through the dead detector… Majed was so clueless that he couldn’t even tell police how long the machine had been shut off or how it happened, the sources said.

The TSA, in the meanwhile, has refused to confirm or deny that the unplugged metal detector had been in actual use. It’s possible that the machine could have accidentally become unplugged before Majed’s shift.

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Authorities eventually reopened the terminal after rescreening everyone, but even authorities weren’t sure if every passenger who went through the “malfunctioning” detector had been accounted for. According to the Post’s source, it seemed like “…the horse was out of the barn by the time [Port Authority was] notified.”

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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