It started with an early-morning bag check and ended with the ashes of John Gross’ grandfather scattered across the screening area at the Orlando International Airport.
According to RTV6, an ABC affiliate in Indianapolis, Gross was flying home to Indiana with the remains of his grandfather, Mario Mark Marcaletti, on the morning of June 19, by catching a flight out of Orlando and changing planes at Newark.
Despite the fact that Marcoletti’s ashes were in a tightly sealed jar marked “Human Remains,” and despite TSA regulations stating that under “no circumstances” are agents to open jars marked in such a way, Gross says that is exactly what happened.
While going through the customary security lines at the Orlando airport, Gross says a TSA agent not only opened the jar, but also started searching through the jar with her fingers. During the search, she accidentally tipped the jar and spilled about a third of the ashes on the floor.
“She didn’t apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments,” Gross told the television station. “I couldn’t pick up all, everything that was lost. I mean, there was a long line behind me.”
According to the Transportation Security Administration, agents should simply send the jar through the X-ray machine or use other methods to scan its contents. Agents have no right at any time to open the container, according to the TSA website’s policy on the transportation of human remains:
Out of respect to the deceased and their family and friends, under no circumstances will an officer open the container even if the passenger requests this be done.
Sari Koshetz, a TSA spokeswoman in Miami, tells the Orlando Sentinel that they are investigating the incident. “Circumstances as described in some reports are inconsistent with what we believe transpired,” Koshetz wrote in an email to the Sentinel.
Gross wants an apology from TSA and from the woman who spilled the ashes. “I want them to help me understand where they get off treating people like this.” Because he’s certainly not finding any humor in this situation.