A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee was found dead in an apparent suicide plunge inside the Orlando International Airport, with the incident bringing travel to a halt inside the busy airport.
Police said the employee, an unidentified man in his 40s, jumped from an upper balcony of the Hyatt Regency Hotel into the atrium of the airport. As the New York Post reported, the man was in critical condition when he was found, and died after being rushed to a hospital.
The incident brought the airport to a halt as first responders cordoned off the scene of the man’s plunge, and many travelers shared pictures and video on social media of the chaotic aftermath. Airport officials also released a statement telling travelers to expect delays.
Witnesses said the man was seen climbing over a balcony before falling to his death. At first, onlookers were not sure what he was doing.
“Thought it was strange and then thought he may be observing the security area below since he was TSA. I wish I would have said something to him,” said James Shaw, a hotel guest.
The TSA worker’s apparent suicide comes after airport security employees gained national attention for being forced to work without pay for the duration of the government shutdown. Because their work was deemed essential, TSA employees were part of a small group of federal employees who were called in to work during the partial shutdown.
TSA officer jumps to his death at Orlando airport https://t.co/rmXNLQrk2I— Sun Nation/World (@baltsunworld) February 2, 2019
Employees shared stories of financial hardship during the six weeks they went without being paid, with many struggling to afford food for their families. Many turned to food banks and other charities to remain afloat. As the Washington Post noted, the union representing these employees spoke out against the shutdown, saying it was having a detrimental effect on them and their families.
“The union that represents the TSA workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, has warned since the federal shutdown began that its employees are among the lowest salaried on the federal pay scale and simply may be unable to afford to continue to work without pay.”
This led to a surge in TSA employees calling in sick, which prompted delays at many major airports last week, and ultimately helped lead to Donald Trump’s decision to end the shutdown.
The TSA worker who allegedly committed suicide was not identified, and police did not disclose a potential motive for the man’s final act.