ORLANDO, Fla. Nov 12 2017 – The Transportation Safety Administration released surveillance video showing an agent moving a smoking bag containing an exploding lithium-ion battery away from passengers during a panic at Orlando International Airport Friday.
The TSA agent, a 20-year Army veteran, said he believed the bag to be an improvised explosive device. He placed it between a concrete column and a concrete planter to mitigate any harm that might come with a full explosion.
The TSA commended the agent, saying he ran the bag away even as panicked passengers “knocked over the queuing stanchions and dropped roller bags, creating loud banging sounds which were perceived as gunshots, further spreading panic throughout the airport.”
Numerous people at OIA reported there was a panic caused by those loud noises, initially thought to be gunshots.
“Our TSA Team’s performance was outstanding. I’m very proud of our team and how they responded to both the incident and the recovery process of rescreening passengers,” said Jerry Henderson, TSA Federal Security Director. “Our people responded as they are trained to do, and to lead passengers to safety.”
The Orlando Police Department said on Twitter that no shots had been fired and it was “a loud sound that startled people.”
The department later said on Twitter that the noise was caused by a lithium-ion battery that exploded inside a camera.
The bag the camera was in started to smolder, but no one was injured, the OPD tweet said.
The incident was first reported just after 5 p.m., airport officials said in a statement.
“As a result of the incident, a ground stop was issued and a number of flights were held while passengers were allowed back into the building and security checkpoints reactivated,” the statement said.
The incident did not pose any danger to people at the airport, the department’s Twitter post said.
Regardless, photos given to Channel 9 showed a normally busy terminal that was completely empty.
Because everyone who evacuated the terminal had to go through security screening again, travelers were experiencing inordinately long lines.
“It’s crazy. Nobody knows anything,” traveler McKenzie Golden said.
She had just gone through the security checkpoint and was preparing to get onto a flight home to Michigan when the chaos hit.
“I heard people screaming and then everybody hit the ground and people were basically running over each other, trampling each other,” Golden said.
Numerous flights were delayed due to the incident.
Hours after the battery explosion, massive crowds were still working their way through security to get to their flights.