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TSA trainee witnesses accident, then takes charge of scene

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Michael Whitney Photo

One evening this June, TSA officer-in-training Michael Whitney was walking down Ocean Boulevard in St. Simons Island, Georgia, with several other classmates from the TSA Basic Training program, when a silver Camaro went speeding by, lost control, and hit a minivan head on.

The group watched in shock as both vehicles went airborne and exploded. Without hesitating, Whitney handed his shopping bag to a classmate and ran to help. Calling upon his law enforcement and military background and emergency training, he took control of the scene. He secured a perimeter and completed initial assessments of the occupants of each vehicle; the two females in the Camaro were deceased and the passengers in the minivan were responsive but needed immediate medical attention.

Whitney, who is now a TSA officer at Denver International Airport, sensed that a fire could be imminent and asked his fellow witnesses if anyone had a fire extinguisher. One man did, and Whitney asked him to be at the ready to spray if he saw any signs of smoke.

At the same time this accident occurred, emergency personnel were working to contain a massive fire at the Microtel Inn across town, so their response time was slower than usual. Whitney maintained control of the scene until a police officer did arrive. He then briefed the officer about what he had witnessed and the actions he and his colleagues had taken before leaving the scene to EMS, Fire, and Police personnel.

“This is a clear example of hiring strong public service minded employees,” said Colorado Federal Security Director Lawrence Nau. “I am so proud of Mr. Whitney, particularly being a new hire, and that he clearly understands that public reputation and service goes far beyond the walls of our airport environments. Also, thank you to the other three officers (Cory Boudrealt, Colleen Dugan, and Brian Watts), who assisted Mr. Whitney.”