Texas TSA officer helps distraught passenger after husband collapses

Thursday, January 6, 2022
AUS officer Hassett photo

Lead TSA Officer (LTSO) Toni Hassett responded to a commotion in front of her checkpoint at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Texas. As she ran to check out the disturbance, she saw a possible medical emergency and immediately called for medical assistance, then moved to the front of the checkpoint to help.

Hassett noticed an elderly passenger had stopped breathing and passed out in his wheelchair She also observed his distraught wife and instinctively moved to comfort her in the confusion.

Frantically, the wife kept asking, “What do I do? What do I do?” Realizing the wife was not steady, Hassett took the woman’s hand and said, “We can pray together.”

“I let her know I was there for her,” Hassett explained.

When paramedics arrived, Hassett put her arms around the woman. “The wife did not want to let go of my arm as she was watching,” said Hassett.

After what seemed like hours, the elderly man started breathing and tried to sit up. Paramedics transported him to the hospital for further evaluation.

As paramedics took the husband away, his wife shared they were not local, had nowhere to go, and she wanted to go with her husband. Hassett quickly explained to the paramedics the unique situation, and they allowed the wife to accompany her husband in the ambulance.

Still, the woman did not want to let go of Hassett, who had been there with her, rocking her and comforting her.

Hassett asked the wife if she wanted her [Hassett] to walk with her to the ambulance. The woman said yes, and they followed the stricken man to the ambulance.

Sadly, TSA AUS later learned the husband had passed away.

TSA Stakeholder Relations Manager Ignacio Reyes said, “Toni is an example of the many great officers within TSA who balance work demands with positive deeds. The positive fiber within all of us kicks in to help others. We are so proud to have Toni on our team.”

Hassett, a TSA Passenger Support Specialist who is trained to provide in-person assistance to passengers requesting help with medical conditions or disabilities, genuinely understands and recognizes those few unique cases in which a traveler or family may be stressing. She shows compassion and informs/assists them with the screening process and has taken courses to help others in mental health first aid for addictions.

“It is so much easier to help them, diffuse the situation and provide a positive experience,” said Hassett.

Hassett received a letter of commendation from Gary Griffin, an assisting on-duty officer from the Austin Police Department. It summarizes Hassett’s actions, saying, “In my opinion, LTSO Hassett should be commended for her actions. The kindness, care and compassion that she showed for a lady whom she has never met and was going through a difficult time, speaks volumes to her character and her heart. This kind of compassion and work ethic cannot be taught. LTSO Hassett went above and beyond in dealing with this situation.”

Hassett recently received praise and appreciation for her contributions in helping kids at the U.S. Border Patrol Ajo Station in Arizona several months ago. Customs and Border Patrol Supervisory Mission Support Specialist Gina Page wrote, “You have a great employee [LTSO Toni Hassett] within your Agency. I wish we could be permanently gifted with her at our Agency.”

By Wayne Carey, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs