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TSA finds inactive mortar fuse, explains ripple effect

Items found in luggage

TSA agents at Salt Lake City International Airport found a nosecone fuse for a mortar shell in a passenger’s luggage the week of Feb. 20, but even though the object had been rendered harmless, the agency said such items can drastically slow passenger screenings.

The  M557 Projectile Fuse discovered at Salt Lake City can be used on shells fired out of various guns, howitzers and mortars, said TSA on its Web Blog on Feb. 24. The fuse at the airport was filled with wax and used as a training device and didn’t contain explosives, said the agency. “Of course, we didn’t know that at first and it didn’t help that it caused our explosive trace detector to alarm,” said the blog.

“Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds,” said the blog post. “Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested,” it said. It went on to remind passengers that such items are best left at home and it understands that in most cases there isn’t any harmful intent on the person that possesses such an item. “In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items in their bag. That’s why it’s important to double check your luggage before you get to the airport,” said the post.

The agency had a busy week with various grenades at airports across the country. TSA agents found two inert grenades in luggage at the Columbus OH airport and a live M18 smoke grenade at Seattle/Tacoma. Another live smoke grenade was discovered in checked baggage at Colorado Springs, it said.

Sometimes, however, chance and plain bad luck can play a big role in what shows up in passengers’ luggage. That point was underlined with the discovery of a knife inside a laptop computer at the Jacksonville, FL airport. Apparently, said the agency, a computer tech put a computer back together and left his knife inside it. The computer passed through the Jacksonville screening checkpoint and the knife was discovered. The passenger had rented the computer, and it didn’t belong to them, said the agency.

Sometimes, however, passengers can be their own worst enemy. TSA said a passenger at the Houston airport told an officer: “If I miss my flight, I will come back and strangle you.” The passenger missed their flight, it said. Another passenger, while waiting in line to board his flight at Palm Beach, told fellow passengers: “Good luck getting on this plane because it’s going down.” The resulting 52 minute flight delay affected 89 passengers, it said.

Another passenger at the Norfolk, VA airport tried twice to get her handgun onboard with her. The passenger, said TSA, tried to check an unloaded 9mm in her checked baggage, but was informed by the airline that she needed a hard-sided lockable case in order to check it properly. Instead of heeding their advice or giving the firearm to her father as she said she would, the passenger attempted to conceal the firearm with other items in her purse. The gun was found by TSA screeners.




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