CLEVELAND, OH — A man is suing the Transportation Security Administration because he says that TSA agents opened up a sealed urn and spilled his mother’s ashen remains into his suitcase.
On Friday, October 5, 2012, Mr. Shannon Thomas made a scheduled airline trip from Cleveland to Puerto Rico, with an intermediate stop in Washington, D.C. The Ohio man was making the trip to fulfill his deceased mother’s wishes of spreading her cremated ashes into the Caribbean Sea.
Mr. Thomas alleges that prior to making the trip, he purchased a “very heavy and sturdy” urn, placed his mother’s ashes inside, and diligently ensured that the urn was sealed. He even “applied force” and “repeatedly tested” the urn to ensure that it was sealed, according to his complaint. He then packed the urn in his suitcase, carefully surrounding it with clothing.
The bereaved man alleged that after handing his suitcase off to the baggage check station at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, TSA agents “detained, opened, and inspected” his luggage and opened it up. During the warrantless search, federal agents unpacked his things, unscrewed the urn, and “negligently, carelessly, and recklessly replaced the lid,” then repacked it, the lawsuit states.
Mr. Thomas only learned of the act of desecration when he arrived in Puerto Rico, opened his suitcase, and found his mother’s ashes “spilled on his clothing and interior of his suitcase.” The disturbing mess was accompanied by a TSA baggage inspection notice.
To top off his mental anguish, Mr. Thomas alleged that “no person speaking on behalf of the United States or TSA has ever issued an apology” in the two years since the incident occurred. In October 2014, Thomas filed his lawsuit against the TSA in federal court, alleging emotional distress, property damage, and “outrageous disturbance of human remains.”