Airport chief slams TSA over probe of teen stowaway

Charlotte ObserverJuly 14, 2011 

Charlotte aviation director Jerry Orr blasted the Transportation Security Administration's role in the investigation of a teen stowaway from Charlotte's airport, saying the TSA was "more interested in avoiding responsibility" than finding out what happened.

Orr spoke in Washington on Wednesday before a congressional committee on airport security, which focused, in part, on the case of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale, a North Mecklenburg High student who is believed to have stowed away inside the wheel well of a Boston-bound US Airways jet on Nov. 15. Investigators say they believe Tisdale's body fell from the plane when it lowered its landing gear on approach to Boston.

Orr has long criticized the effectiveness of the TSA and has said individual airports could do a better job at airport security than the federal agency.

But his testimony Wednesday delivered detailed criticism of how the TSA handled the Tisdale investigation. Orr said the TSA declined to do its own investigation, and that the agency said the Charlotte police should handle the case.

Orr said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigation was hampered, in part, because the TSA "neglected to safeguard video of passenger security checkpoints and employee access points."

Orr, speaking before a House subcommittee on national security, homeland defense and foreign operations, said investigators couldn't review all of the tapes from Nov. 15 because some had been lost after 30 days.

"Other video surveillance was inaccessible at the time TSA finally sought to preserve it," Orr said.

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