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"Grandmother puts infant through L.A. airport X-ray"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Grandmother puts infant through L.A. airport X-ray
By Jennifer Oldham
The Los Angeles (CA) Times

LOS ANGELES - A woman going through security at Los Angeles International
Airport (LAX) put her month-old grandson into a plastic bin intended for
carry-on items and slid it into an X-ray machine.

The early Saturday accident - bizarre but not unprecedented - caught airport
workers by surprise, even though the security line was not busy at the time,
officials said.

A screener watching the machine's monitor immediately noticed the outline of
a baby and pulled the bin backward on the conveyor belt. The infant was
taken to a local hospital, where doctors determined he did not receive a
dangerous dose of radiation.

Aviation officials, who declined to release the 56-year-old woman's name,
said she spoke Spanish and apparently did not understand English. She
initially did not want the baby transported to a hospital, but security
officials insisted that the child be examined by a doctor.

The grandmother and the child subsequently were allowed to board an Alaska
Airlines flight to Mexico City.

Security experts said the incident underscored a more widespread concern
about the screening process at LAX and other airports.

"The screeners are still reporting that they're being pushed," said Brian
Sullivan, a retired Federal Aviation Administration security agent. "If a
baby can get through, what the hell else can get through?"

Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA), which manages LAX screeners, said the agency does not have enough
workers to constantly stand at tables in front of the screeners to coach
passengers on what should or should not be placed through X-ray machines.

In some cases, however, airlines contract with private companies to staff
the tables and assist travelers. The TSA also occasionally puts employees at
the tables if extra workers are available.

"There's an obligation on the traveler to use some common sense," said Larry
Fetters, the TSA's federal security director at LAX. "If they don't
understand, they should ask somebody. If they ask us, we are generally able
to find someone who speaks that language and assist them."

On its Web site, the TSA posts extensive tips for travelers, including a
section titled "Traveling With Children." Listed among the items is a
sentence that reads: "Never leave babies in an infant carrier while it goes
through the X-ray machine."

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