TSA Officer Jumps to His Death in Busy Orlando International Airport

An on-duty Transformation Safety Administration official jumped to his death in front of long lines of travelers at the Orlando International Airport on Saturday morning. Shown here are TSA officials at the JFK Airport last August. Credit: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

An unidentified, on-duty Transportation Safety Administration officer jumped to his death from the top floor of a Hyatt Regency Hotel balcony in front of shocked travelers standing in lobby security lines at the Orlando International Airport on Saturday morning.

In the ensuing chaos, "several passengers scattered into the sterile area unscreened," TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told the Orlando Sentinel, which reported that the incident happened near the east checkpoint that funnels travelers through gates 70 through 129, according to an airport official.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer's family, friends and everyone in our TSA family." Officials said the man is in his 40s.

Because the fall and subsequent thump of the man's body hitting the main floor, travelers standing in line scattered. Some thought the sound was gun fire.

After the fall, police sectioned off the area of the lobby where the man landed. Paramedics performed CPR, according to two eyewitnesses, before taking the man away on a stretcher, reported The Daily Beast.

Consequently, all passengers heading to those gates must pass through security a second time, said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell .

Some incoming flights may be delayed due to the incident.

Calling it an isolated incident, the Orlando Police tweeted at about 7:30 a.m. ET:

"We are working closely with our partners at [TSA] and [Orlando International Airport] to restore normal airport operations. We ask that you have patience with airport personnel as they work through this tragic incident."

At least two onlookers told The Daily Beast they noticed the TSA officer standing at the top corner of the balcony.

"There was a man standing on the outer ledge of the balcony at the very top floor, but he was facing away so I couldn't see his face," traveler Michael Bawo told The Daily Beast via email. "It looked like he was repairing something, and I thought to myself, that this was a very dangerous spot to be fixing something.

"At that moment he turned and faced the main hall, extended his arms to the side and let himself fall. I looked away at that moment when I realized he was jumping. I covered my ears, but the sound of impact was still audible. Families and children looked on in shock, and tears started to fall from the people in the area. I was standing about 20 feet from where the man landed. Once the shock set in, the TSA agents at security rushed everyone through and guided us to an exit outside the airport."

Like reportedly hundreds of travelers, Bawo stood in line, waiting to go through security and catch his flight back home to Nova Scotia, when he saw the man.

Another traveler, James Shaw, told The Daily Beast he noticed the man standing on the balcony, looking at the lobby below when Shaw returned to his 10th-floor room to retrieve a snack for his daughter.

"I saw him standing there, and I didn't say anything," Shaw said. "I didn't say anything, because at first I thought, 'this is weird.' But, because you can literally see all of security there, I thought he was maybe looking for something. It sure did look weird. I thought, 'oh maybe he's looking for something.' I came downstairs. Then you hear boom. People thought it was gunshots. People were running everywhere."

Shaw said he thought the booming sound was a gunshot, so he ordered some nearby kids to retreat into their hotel rooms. Then he turned and saw the man at the center of the atrium.

"I knew instantly, because I had just seen him on the 10th floor," Shaw added. A Safety Harbor, Florida resident, Shaw, his daughter and other parents stayed at the hotel during an LA Dance Magic competition.

Reportedly, many of the children and their parents witnessed the incident.

The death is the latest blow to TSA agents, who were forced to work without pay for weeks during the 35-day government shutdown last month, when reportedly hundreds of agents quit their jobs, according to union reports.

Police said the investigation continues.

We can confirm the deceased individual involved in this incident is an employee of the @TSA. Our hearts are with the @TSA family during this very difficult time.

— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) February 2, 2019