Passenger: Boston TSA Officer saved my life

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
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The quick thinking, persistence and instincts of a lead transportation security officer (LTSO) may have saved a passenger’s life when the officer prevented the sick traveler from boarding a plane at Boston Logan International Airport.

The passenger was scheduled to travel on a JetBlue afternoon flight. She had not been feeling too well and asked for a wheelchair from the airline.

Lead officer Ifeoma Onuorah noticed that the passenger, sitting in a wheelchair at the checkpoint, did not look well. Onuorah asked her how she was doing. The woman said she was alright. However, Onuorah noticed the traveler was perspiring and appeared “clammy.”

Onuorah then left the checkpoint to check on the passenger in the women's restroom, where she found her crying and hunched over on the floor. Onuorah again asked if she was alright and offered to help, but the passenger insisted she was fine.

TSM bordonaro and LTSO Onuorah photo
Boston Logan International Airport Transportation Security Manager Angelo Bordonaro and Lead Transportation Security Officer Ifeoma Onuorah (Photo courtesy of TSA Boston)

A little later, Onuorah walked past the hallway that leads to the women's restroom. She saw the passenger standing near the water fountain at the end of the corridor and approached her to check on her again. Now with a friend, the woman said she was fine.

But Onuorah knew something wasn’t right. After observing the passenger’s physical condition and seeing her crying and extremely pale, Onuorah decided it was time to take action. She called emergency medical personnel.

“She did not appear OK to me,” Onuorah said. “It did not sit right with me. So I notified EMTs there was a woman in the bathroom that did not look well and went back to the checkpoint. I had no idea at the time that her condition was dire.”

First responders showed up a short time later and saw that the passenger’s blood pressure was dangerously low. She did not make her flight that day and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she spent the next three days getting stabilized.

“The actions of LTSO Onuorah highlight the dynamic posture our frontline employees possess,” said Federal Security Director Bob Allison. “Her actions speak volumes and provide a positive example to the public that our employees are committed to their safety and well-being. We are incredibly fortunate to have LTSO Onuorah as part of our team and grateful for her actions and leadership.”

Onuorah made the right call in getting help for the passenger.

“I’m grateful that I used my situational awareness to even notice that the woman needed help,” she said. “I’m also grateful that I followed my instinct to the extent that it potentially saved her life.”

At April’s TSA Town Hall, Administrator David Pekoske lauded Onuorah for going above and beyond. “Congratulations to Ifemoa for her persistence and care,” said Pekoske. “It made a difference.”

The passenger believes Onuorah saved her life. If not for Onuorah’s perceptive and quick actions, she says she could have died. The traveler called TSA to give Onuorah a compliment.

"So many people think negatively of TSA," the passenger said. “That is not accurate. TSA can be lifesavers.”  

From TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs