Parents criticize TSA for handling of girl in a wheelchair

Print
Email
|

by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on December 14, 2012 at 12:09 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 18 at 3:37 AM

WILLS POINT - Tammy Daniels said TSA screeners never used common sense after detecting a trace of explosives on the hands of her 12-year-old daughter, who uses a wheelchair.

"It's okay, you didn't do anything wrong, we're going to get you on your way," an official said to Shelbi Walser, 12, as she cried on a video her mother recorded.

"I was just scared because I didn't know what they were going to do," Walser told News 8.

The girl suffers from brittle bone disease and was flying to Tampa, Florida for treatment on Sunday. But, the TSA detained her in Terminal A of Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport after randomly selecting her for an explosives test.

When a screener swabbed Walser's palms and fingers, Daniels said her daughter tested positive for explosives.

"It could have come off fertilizer because we have chickens," Walser said. "I could have run through something from them. It could have just come off the ground because I roll through everything."

Daniels said she couldn't comfort her crying daughter because screeners ordered her to keep back during the hour it took bomb experts to settle the situation.

"I am by no means undermining our safety in the air," Daniels said. "After 9/11, by no means am I doing that. But, when it comes to children, common sense is not in a textbook."

She said the TSA checked and cleared her and all their carry-ons, but never tested the wheelchair, which likely transferred the substance to Walser's hands as she pushed it.

But the TSA defended itself in a statement to News 8.

"We are sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA through a variety of channels," the TSA statement read. "We work to balance those concerns with the very real threat that our adversaries will attempt to use explosives to carry out attacks on planes."

Despite the delay, Shelbi and her mom made the flight, but said the TSA made it an embarrassing experience.

UPDATE on December 17 at 10:13 p.m.: 

The TSA has responded to Sehlbi Walser's complaints. A TSA agent in Tampa provided his cell phone number to the family offering to personally walk with them through security after the 12-year-old's next treatment there. The TSA's Federal Security Director for D/FW Airport asked the family to call him personally to offer comments and suggestions for improvements. And an office in Washington, DC said it would investigate to see whether any "disability discrimination" occured.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|