Orlando police and airport officials say that an on-duty and uniformed TSA officer jumped to his death from the Hyatt Regency Hotel into the atrium area of Orlando International Airport just above a security checkpoint, causing delays and crowds at security and leading some people to be stuck on planes.
“We are working an incident at the Orlando International Airport @MCO where a person jumped from the Hyatt Regency Hotel into the atrium area of the airport. This is an active and on-going investigation. More information to follow…” Orlando police confirmed. You can see some videos from the scene later in this article. The man’s name was not released.
“This is an isolated incident within the atrium area of the airport. Any reports of suspicious vehicles related to this incident are FALSE. The person that jumped has been pronounced deceased…” police wrote. The man, who was in his 40s, “was found in critical condition and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased,” police wrote. “Preliminary information suggests an apparent suicide. 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.”
Terrified Twitter users reported seeing the man fall and hearing a loud bang, which falsely led some people to think at first that there might be an active shooter at the airport. All of this led to chaos and confusion.
Carolyn M. Fennell, senior director of Public Affairs and Community Relations for Orlando International Airport, wrote in a statement that the airport was open and confirmed, “There was an incident at the Hyatt Hotel involving a male that may have jumped from a floor just above the east checkpoint which serves Airsides 2 and 4 (gates 70-129) that has been contained.”
“Unscreened passengers entered the sterile area on both airsides 2 and 4,” Fennell continued. “All passengers at gates 70-129 are being rescreened to (ensure) there are no security breaches. The Operations for gates 1-59 are proceeding as normal. In an abundance of caution, all passengers are being rescreened and inbound aircraft for airsides 2 and 4 may be delayed. Allow extra time for screening as… there may be delays in the process.”
Reports flew on Twitter well before police and airport officials commented. “You will hear some sad news…a TSA agent jumped from the balcony at our hotel in the Orlando airport. I saw him fall,” wrote Kim Vliem.
In a statement, the TSA confirmed the man “fell from a hotel balcony inside Orlando International Airport” and added, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer’s family, friends and everyone in our TSA family.”
The incident occurred at Orlando International Airport on Saturday, February 2, 2019. People reported being stuck on planes or going through another screening in security, with one woman writing on Twitter, “Stuck on a plane at MCO Orlando International for ‘security breach’ issue… anyone know what’s going on?” Word of the suicide quickly spread, however.
Airport officials also told WESH-TV that “people waiting to go through security for (gates) 70 – 129 rushed past screening after a person jumped from the Hyatt Regency inside of the airport.”
Video of the aftermath circulated on social media.
Here’s what you need to know:
Twitter Users Reported Seeing the Man Fall & Hearing a Bang
A woman named Leah McCarthy called the situation “THE SCARIEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE” on Facebook. She said it “took place at 9:30am this morning! We’re staying at the Hyatt Orlando airport for the dance competition. I was in my room and I heard screaming from the airport terminal (which is outside my balcony) and a LOUD bang like a shotgun. Panic was in full effect! Screaming, running, I didn’t know where to put myself first.”
She continued, “After about 15 minutes we were told it wasn’t a shooter it was a TSA agent who jumped from the 10th floor of the hotel right into the middle of the airport terminal! The 15 minutes of thinking there was an active shooter and I couldn’t get to my daughter won’t leave my mind right now. Currently the airport is shutdown. What a sad sad day.”
A man named Josh Atwell wrote, “Terrible situation at orlando airport a little while ago. Person fell from one of the hotel balconies. That was tense there for a bit. Glad kids are ignorant.” Another Twitter user wrote, “I’m at the Orlando airport trying to fly home. A man jumped off the hotel balcony in front of security and killed himself in front of all these people ?” Pascal Plouffe wrote, “My wife she is in orlando airport and she saw the person jump for the balcony…. is at suicide !!!”
Another woman, Yalonda Moore, wrote on Twitter, “MCO Something going on here police here people were crying but airport not telling us nothing Someone said that a person fell from high up…” People wrote that they heard a loud bang. “Alright so we’re in the Orlando airport this morning and all I hear is a loud BANG followed by people screaming so naturally I thought there was some type of attack and started RUNNINNGGGGG. Spilling my hot coffee all over my hands and sh*t….” wrote one man.
The FAA reported some delays at Orlando. “Due to OTHER / SECURITY, there is a Traffic Management Program in effect for traffic arriving Orlando International Airport, Orlando, FL (MCO). To see if you may be affected, select your departure airport and check ‘Delays by Destination,'” the site wrote. You can follow it here. The FAA also wrote, “Because a traffic management program is delaying some arriving flights, departing flight schedules may be affected. Check with your airline to determine if your flight is affected. General Arrival Delays: Arrival traffic is experiencing airborne delays of 15 minutes or less.”
The Tragic Situation Led to Security Delays
The television station WESH-TV reported that gates 70 – 129 were temporarily closed, and some planes were delayed. Photos showed delays at security. WFTV reported that there was a “security breach,” causing the airport to be at a standstill.
Robert Richardson, a reporter with CBS 17, wrote, “Orlando airport officials announced a ‘security breach’ at @MCO. No flights have left or landed in the past hour. All passengers in Terminal A are being required to clear the terminal for a ‘security sweep’ and return to the entrance to go through @TSA checks again. @WNCN @WFLA.”
KEYC news anchor Kelsey Barchenger wrote: “Current wait for TSA line at #OrlandoAirport: 70-74 min. Airport officials say the ‘security emergency’ has been resolved.” However, the airport’s website was still reporting: “Security Wait Times
Gates 1-59: 15-19 Minutes; Gates 70-129: 15-19 Minutes.” The airport’s website does a function where you can check flight status. Here are all the flights at MCO.
The airport had yet to comment. Heavy has reached out to the general manager of the Hyatt Regency seeking comment. This post will be updated when more is known. Be aware that, in the early stages of breaking news situations, conflicting information often arises. You can check here for the status of flights at MCO.
“They are clearing the terminals and sending everyone back through security. It’s officially being called a security breach. #orlandoairport,” one woman wrote on Twitter.
ESPN’s Mike Clay wrote: “I’m at the Orlando airport with my family. No emergency but a sad situation. Airport is super overcrowded right now but security/gates apparently will open shortly.”
This post will be updated when more information is confirmed about the incident.