An off-duty Transportation Security Administration officer fell to his death Saturday from a hotel balcony inside Florida’s Orlando International Airport, officials said, sending confused travelers scattering past security checkpoints unscreened and causing flight delays.
There were varying descriptions about what happened. Orlando police said a man in his 40s jumped, in an apparent suicide, from the Hyatt Regency Hotel onto an atrium floor in the main terminal at about 9:30 a.m. ET.
TSA spokeswoman Jenny Burke identified the man as an off-duty TSA officer, and said he fell from one of the multilevel hotel’s balconies, which overlooks an area where people line up for one of the airport’s security checkpoints.
The man was found in critical condition and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. His name was not released, and further information on what led to his fall wasn’t immediately available.
The fall caused momentary panic in the atrium as well as long delays for some travelers who were trying to fly into and out of the airport.
A passenger says TSA workers told them to run
Trista Eaden told Spectrum News 13, a CNN affiliate, that she was waiting in line for screening when she heard a loud bang.
“Then I saw the TSA agents standing up, and all of a sudden they just told us to run, to just go through the screening,” Eaden said.
The TSA said that several passengers scattered past the security areas without screening. All passengers at gates 70 to 129 had to be rescreened, the airport said.
Around 3 p.m., the airport tweeted that the wait at those checkpoints had been reduced to less than 15 minutes. Numerous flights had been canceled, especially for Southwest Airlines, the airport tweeted.
Video from CNN affiliate WFTV showed long lines at the checkpoint early Saturday afternoon.
Travelers flying into the airport were held up, too.
Timothy Haines, who flew into Orlando from Michigan, told CNN affiliate WKMG that his Southwest Airlines flight was held on an apron or taxiway for more than 90 minutes.
As of 6:30 p.m., 117 flights from the airport had been delayed and 45 were canceled, according to the flight-tracking site FlightAware.com. Dozens of flights coming into the airport also were delayed or canceled.
Rep. Val Demings was among the Florida officials tweeting condolences: “Our hearts go out to the family of the TSA officer who passed away today at @MCO. Our public servants work every day to keep us safe. Please keep them all in your prayers during this difficult time.”