When Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Lead TSA Officer Brian Clausen heard someone yell for 911, he turned on his heels and ran back to find a passenger down on the unsecure side of the checkpoint.
Clausen, overseeing a pair of lanes on Checkpoint 3, was walking to the supply cabinet two lanes over when TSA Officer Shauna Brown, the officer working the walk through metal detector position, saw a male traveler grab his forehead and fall backwards striking his head as he fell to the floor.
“I dialed 911 and passed my phone off to another supervisor while (I went) to grab the automated external defibrillator (AED) machine,” recalled Clausen. “Once I saw the passenger on the floor and heard someone yell it was a possible heart attack, I knew an AED was going to be needed.”
Seconds later, Lead TSA Officer Harry Specht heard the emergency call over the radio.
“As luck would have it, I was floating at the time and was just helping out (other officers),” said Specht, who was approximately 30 feet away but didn’t see the passenger fall. He saw Clausen running and knew something bad had happened.
“When I arrived the passenger was flat on the floor, arms out, eyes open and unseeing,” said Specht. “He didn’t have a pulse, and he wasn’t breathing.”
Certified in CPR, Specht had already administered a round of chest compressions by the time Clausen returned with the AED.
“I know head wounds tend to look way worse than they are because they bleed a lot, so I was more concerned about a concussion than any amount of bleeding,” said Specht. “To protect his neck, I avoided tilting his chin for rescue breaths.”
“After handing off the AED machine, Supervisory TSA Officer Shivam Chopra and I set up a portable barricade to provide privacy during the incident and ushered passengers to other screening lanes,” said Clausen, who then went curbside to escort the Port of Seattle Fire Department (POSFD) to the checkpoint.
“The AED only shocked him once, and after that it just kept assessing while I did CPR,” said Specht. “I know it worked because he flopped just like in training or on TV.”
When Clausen and EMS arrived at the checkpoint, the passenger was responding to the emergency first aid, and the TSA officers stepped back and briefed them on the situation.
“I gave them my assessment and all the interventions I performed,” said Specht. “I was so glad he was conscious, breathing and talking when he left the checkpoint.”
Clausen had advice for anyone who comes upon a similar situation.
“Don't be afraid to act,” said Clausen. “I have six years of experience in law enforcement responding to traffic accidents. Instinct took over. I responded to a call of a person in need and did what I believed necessary to provide a positive outcome.”
Specht enlisted in the Army Reserve six years ago after serving eight years in the U.S. Army stateside and overseas. He maintains CPR and first aid certifications because of his volunteer work accompanying Girl Scout activities.
“First aid and CPR are both skills that change/update frequently and may be needed at any moment, anywhere you go,” said Specht. “I think they are essential skills that everyone should know.”
“This was an extremely stressful situation for everyone involved, but it is also a great example of how TSA’s commitment and professionalism extends beyond our traditional security duties and positively impacts the well-being of the traveling public,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Washington Greg Hawko.
“I commend Lead TSA Officer Specht for selflessly coming to the aid of a traveler who was unexpectedly in a life or death situation. I also want to thank Lead TSA Officer Clausen and Supervisory TSA Officer Chopra for their leadership and swift response that allowed for the POSFD to stabilize the traveler and prepare him for transport to a local medical center.”
“Very few people have the opportunity to say they’ve saved a life and Lead TSA Officer Specht’s actions directly resulted in a life being spared. We have the highest save rate in the world at our airport because our partners throughout the airport are trained and take actions quickly,” said Port of Seattle Fire Chief Randy Krause.
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs