ORLANDO, Fla. — It's business as usual at Orlando International Airport, but the city it serves and the people who work there want to know one thing: Why would a TSA worker jump to his death inside one of the busiest parts of the airport?
Investigators say the 36-year-old Robert Henry finished his TSA shift Saturday morning. Henry, who had worked for the TSA for more than 12 years, then made his way to an upper level of the Hyatt Regency hotel, which has indoor balconies overlooking the large atrium that encloses the airport's security checkpoint.
Around 9:30 a.m., he jumped to his death in front of hundreds of stunned people waiting in security lines.
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"Came down to the fourth floor, and that's when you heard the boom," said James Shaw, who was on the 10th floor of the Hyatt on Saturday morning. "I thought at first it was something else. It didn't connect, and then I looked and saw him and I knew."
The incident caused an immediate ground stop at the airport as well as a shutdown of security screenings. Lines of passengers waiting to be screened grew as wait times stretched beyond 100 minutes. Almost 100 flights were canceled or delayed.
Even people who had already gone through security had to leave the terminal and go through security again.
"Everyone from that terminal had to essentially empty that terminal and go back through that security line," said Channel 9 sports anchor Christian Bruey, who was on a Las Vegas-bound plane that was about to take off when he, his wife, and other passengers had to return to the gate. Then they had to go through the security line a second time. "There was a 35-45 minute wait just to get back on the trams."
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority said Monday that operations were normal by Sunday.
"GOAA will meet and review, as they do after any significant incident, policy/procedures and make sure nothing was missed or changes need to be made," said a GOAA spokesperson, who added that Southwest Airlines alone has 150 flights coming and going from the airport on Saturdays.
It's not clear how Henry was able to access one of the hotel balconies. Police, the airport and TSA have also not said if they know why he took his life in such a busy, public place.
The TSA said Monday that grief counselors had been brought in for security workers.
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the officer’s family, friends and everyone in our TSA family," a TSA spokesperson said Monday.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK
Cox Media Group