By Sharon Linstedt, The Buffalo News, N.Y.
May 13--A federal Transportation Security Administration officer at Buffalo Niagara International Airport has been taken off active duty following a Sunday afternoon security breach.
The unidentified worker is accused of failing to spot a passenger who bypassed the security checkpoint at about 4:15 p. m. Sunday and entered the airport's gate area via the exit passageway. Video surveillance of the exit corridor shows the passenger entering the exit lane in full view of the staffer, according to airport sources.
"The TSA security officer working the exit lane has been immediately removed from the duty position and is currently receiving retraining," Lara Uselding the agency's spokeswoman, said in a written statement.
Hundreds of departing and arriving travelers found themselves in limbo for more than 30 minutes, and about half a dozen flights were delayed.
Uselding declined to comment on whether the employee will face disciplinary action. The JetBlue passenger, described only as a woman in her late 50s, will face no charges for what's being called "an honest mistake."
TSA and airport representatives became aware of the breach after the traveler informed an airline employee she had gotten to the gate without being screened. That admission triggered the evacuation of all passengers from the gate area to the airport's ticketing hall and a security sweep by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police officers and canine teams.
"The passenger was escorted to the security checkpoint and interviewed by NFTA. Out of an abundance of caution, TSA closed the security checkpoint at 4:27 p. m., and the terminals were evacuated in order to rescreen passengers," Uselding said in her statement.
Passengers on arriving flights were kept onboard while the sweep was conducted. The checkpoint reopened at 5:08 p. m., and affected travelers were all back on their way by 6 p. m.
NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said NFTA police and staff did everything they could to speed the "gate resterilization process."
"We made a conscious decision to sweep the West Concourse first, so TSA could restart the screening process and have a secure space to direct passengers. While the breach did disrupt travel schedules, nobody missed their flights," Hartmayer said.