SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) — The checked baggage system at the Salt Lake International Airport was brought to a screeching halt for two hours earlier this month while the Transportation Security Administration investigated a suspicious item in someone’s luggage.
The suspicious item? A plastic skull fitted with a sensor and a 9-volt battery.
The skull was flagged on Monday, Sept. 18, around 8 a.m. by a TSA explosive detection unit as a “potential security threat.” When TSA officers reviewed the X-ray image on-screen, they saw what appeared to be a human skull with “unidentifiable components” inside. Altogether, authorities said, it resembled an improvised explosive device.
The Salt Lake City Police Airport Division was notified of the discovery. Together with TSA, officers worked to mitigate any immediate threat with an explosive canine. Officers also located the passenger to explain what they found in his luggage.
The passenger said the plastic skull was simply a medical training device for neurosurgeons. It can be used to instruct them on how to properly conduct a lobotomy. The passenger told officers he was taking it to a trade show in Cancun, Mexico for display.
“This incident and subsequent response is an example of how TSA must take every potential security threat seriously while making sure that the transportation system is not put at risk,’ said TSA Federal Security Director for Utah Matt Davis. “I was pleased at the professionalism of everyone involved who worked closely to fully resolve the matter to ensure that security was not compromised and to resume operations as quickly as possible.”
TSA said anyone who is traveling with a “highly unusual item” that could be seen as a potential security threat should contact a TSA supervisor or manager before going to the airport. Contacting TSA beforehand gives TSA a preview of what will be screened and helps avoid potential suspicion.
After their investigation, TSA agents determined the plastic skull was not allowed to fly on a commercial aircraft and was retained at the Salt Lake City airport. TSA confirmed the passenger will be able to retrieve the device when he returns to Utah.