What was expected to be a routine journey for Barbadian dentist Dr Anthony McCaskie turned into a virtual nightmare at Miami International Airport (MIA) on Monday evening, as security officers extracted him from American Airlines flight 2393 shortly before takeoff.
Dr McCaskie was returning home after completing an orthodontic course in Miami when the unthinkable happened, leaving him to ponder his legal options and his family outraged.
“I feel very badly about it. My son was not stealing anything. Anthony visited Miami to attend a course and decided to bring home some items and they harassed the man,” his mother Alva McCaskie told Barbados TODAY this evening.
“My son is more Christian than me now. I brought him up in the Christian faith . . . The plane was delayed because of his arrest. It is not fair to my son,” she said, adding that she had spoken with her daughter-in-law Deborah about the ordeal.
Dr McCaskie was detained after his carry-on luggage was flagged as suspicious at security and sent for a second check but was released without further investigation. When the first security station realized the discrepancy, authorities closed two security checkpoints and launched a hunt to find which flight he had boarded.
Barbados TODAY can reveal that the source of the security scare was nothing but dental detachable cable tubing used to clean teeth.
Up to 50 flights were delayed for hours, traffic was backed up outside the airport terminal and armed police in riot gear stormed the aircraft and ordered passengers to put their hands on their heads. Dr McCaskie was extracted, detained, questioned and eventually allowed to leave.
“It was with a sense of shock that I reacted after being apprehended by law enforcement officers at the Miami International Airport on Monday,” he told Barbados TODAY from his office at St Michael Row, The City.
“On Monday evening November 9 2015, I was apprehended, investigated and searched by police and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials having boarded American Airlines flight 2393 on my scheduled return to Barbados after having completed an orthodontic course. The suspicious item was a dental replacement part in my backpack. This same backpack was checked twice by Transportation Security Administration scanners. I was certainly the most shocked person when I was arrested,” he indicated, reading from a prepared statement.
The dentist said he was happy to be home after the “painful” ordeal, and was considering his legal options.
A passenger aboard flight 2393 told Barbados TODAY this evening that while it was the first time she had had such an experience “it was not terrifying”.
She said between eight and ten armed security officers boarded the aircraft in search of Dr McCaskie who cooperated with them.
“They all carried their weapons but they [the weapons] were still in their holsters as far as I could see. We knew that they were coming on board because it was announced that they were checking each aircraft individually,” said the passenger, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity.
Miami Airport spokesman Greg Chin said in addition to the delays nine flights were diverted, and some travellers missed their flights.
Miami-Dade Police initially responded to the investigation before it was later turned over to the FBI.
On Tuesday, the TSA sought to clarify the incident, explaining that security officers had allowed Dr McCaskie through the screening area before searching his bag.
“In the process of transitioning other passengers to an adjacent screening lane, standard procedures were not adhered to and the passenger was allowed to depart the checkpoint and proceed into the terminal,” said TSA spokesman Mark Howell.
Howell said a manual inspection was done and officers determined there was no threat. He added that the agency was reviewing its response to the incident.
The Miami Herald reported that there was such a back up of traffic that passengers said they got out of cars and walked to the ramp with their luggage.
Passengers on board the flight filmed the moment the Dr McCaskie was ordered to stand and be handcuffed, with SWAT team officers interrogating him.
Meanwhile, the US embassy here has referred Barbados TODAY to US Customs and Border Protection at Miami International Airport. In response to a request for a comment, an embassy spokesman said, “Embassy Bridgetown does not comment on matters occurring at Miami International Airport”.