An 83-year-old man allegedly boarded an American Airlines flight from Barbados to Miami with a handgun loaded with five 32-calibre rounds in the chamber in his pant pockets. The weapon was only detected after the suspect tried to get on a connecting domestic flight to Orlando and was quickly stopped by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers.
The worrying security lapse has prompted an immediate investigation by Homeland Security which has sent its own team to Barbados to work out how such a stunning omission was allowed to occur.
Cameron Hinds boarded American Airlines flight AA1089 from Bridgetown to Miami in November but the incident has only just come to light after Hinds appeared in court charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Hinds denies the charges.
Hinds told officers that he managed to board the plane with the loaded gun in his pant pockets. It’s not clear how the weapon didn’t set off the metal detector in Bridgetown or how airport security officers didn’t notice that Hinds hadn’t emptied his pockets.
“This is a rarity, and one we take quite seriously. It highlights the reason why we do rescreen international passengers before they connect to a domestic flight in the United States,” a TSA spokesperson told the Washington Post.
The incident has sparked an urgent security review and put officers on high alert. Last month, a false active shooter alarm caused mass panic at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport after a man tried to take his loaded handgun through a TSA checkpoint and onto his flight.
When the man’s hand baggage was flagged for additional screening, the man lunged into the bag and grabbed the gun causing it to fire. The man then fled the scene with the gun before disposing of it in a nearby trash can. He has since handed himself in to authorities.
Passengers are usually permitted to take unloaded guns in checked baggage on domestic flights as long as the firearm is stored in a secure and locked case.
In this latest incident, Hinds had access to a loaded gun on a more than four-hour flight. American Airlines says it has been working with law enforcement on the investigation.
Neval Greenidge, Barbados’ Consul General to Miami told NBC 6 that the man was searched but that the gun might have been concealed under a laptop.
“The gentleman was searched. He was patted down. He was scanned, but the firearm seemed to have been under a laptop and I think that’s where the blunder came because the officer who would have been reviewing his bag or checking the luggage should have taken the laptop out, or had him take the laptop out which is customary for the TSA.”
“We understand the danger in allowing things like this to happen. Sadly, this is one of those unfortunate situations,” Greenidge continued.
Hinds is due to appear in court again later this month.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.