TSA officers rush to save life at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
PHX MNF photo

TSA’s teamwork at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) was put to the test when faced with a life-threatening situation at a security checkpoint.

It was early in the morning. The checkpoint in Terminal 4 was full of travelers. A passenger support specialist from a private company was helping a passenger in a wheelchair when TSA officers suddenly noticed a pool of blood on the floor. It came from the employee helping the wheelchair passenger. His leg was bandaged from an injury several days earlier, but the bandage broke, putting his life in jeopardy in the middle of a very busy checkpoint.

STSO Obrist photo
Supervisory TSA Officer Robert Obrist, one of the leaders in the TSA team effort to save a man’s life at PHX Checkpoint T4C. (Photo by Toni Harpel)

Several TSA officers rushed to help.

Supervisory Officer Tracy Blake called 911 while fellow officers teamed up to stop the bleeding and comfort the man, who panicked due to his serious injury and loss of blood.  

Fellow supervisor Robert Obrist rushed the employee to a bench at the back of the checkpoint, took off his TSA uniform belt with the hope of using the belt as a tourniquet, and grabbed a stack of bins to help elevate the severely injured leg.

TSA Officer Sean Applebay stepped in to help by grabbing a bunch of paper towels to contain the blood spill and prevent further contamination at the checkpoint. Then, others joined in the life-saving effort.

“[Officers] Enrique Carrasco, Portia Durrett and Aida Chavez tended to [him] by placing belts from their own uniforms around his upper leg/thigh area [to stop the blood],” Applebay recalled. “Enrique, Portia and Aida also kept him talking while attempting to keep him conscious and checked vitals the entire time before emergency personnel arrived.”

Officer Durrett photo
Portia Durrett, one of the TSA officers who helped keep a private company’s passenger support specialist calm during a serious life-threatening incident at PHX Checkpoint T4C. (Photo by Toni Harpel)

“I communicated with the individual by questioning him about his life,” Durrett said. “I did this to keep him awake and alert.”

“I grabbed the Stop the Bleed kit and quickly opened up a tourniquet,” Applebay added. “Enrique successfully placed a proper tourniquet on [the man’s] leg while we tried to stop further bleeding.”

TSA PHX shut down four of the checkpoint’s eight lanes for passenger safety.

After about ten minutes, paramedics from the Phoenix Fire Department arrived. However, before emergency personnel drove the man to the hospital, the TSA officers on the scene continued to help by holding an IV bag, stayed by the man’s side to comfort him, and followed critical steps from the medics to keep him stable.

Assessing the situation, the paramedics said the officers’ quick reactions saved the man’s life.

“Let’s give a huge round of applause to these heroes for working together as a team, acting quickly and going above and beyond their screening duties,” proclaimed Lead TSA Officer Roozbeh Hamed-Zanjani.

We’re happy to report the passenger support specialist is back on the job and doing well.

“What these officers did was truly heroic!” PHX Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director Natasha Marksberry added. “Without their fast-thinking and quick action, this event would surely have ended in tragedy. Relying on their instincts and remembering their Stop the Bleed training, these officers ensured an airport employee lived to see another day. I am so proud of them and their willingness to step in during a crisis. This is one of the many reasons I am proud to be a part of Team PHX!”

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs