Travelers at the Orlando International Airport flew into a panicked frenzy after a camera’s battery exploded at a terminal security checkpoint.
The lithium-ion battery inside a passenger’s backpack was mistaken for a bomb when it began smoking and making a popping noise at about 5 p.m. Friday evening.
“Some witnesses panicked and self-evacuated the area,” Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Phil Brown said in a statement. “Others […] mistook the sounds as gunfire and within seconds, a spontaneous evacuation of the main terminal occurred.”
As passengers waiting in the security line hurried out of the way, TSA Agent Ricardo Perez could be seen on surveillance footage grabbing the bag and rushing it away from the crowds.
“I heard people yelling,” Perez told WKMG. “I was so close to the bag. I figured, ‘Let me get it out of the way.’”
Perez explained he noticed an empty corner in the airport and rushed to drop the bag there and away from travelers.
“There were folks all over [when] the bag started smoking,” Perez said. “I approached it, I radioed, then I picked up to the bag and brought it to that wheelchair sign in hopes that if it did go off, some of the shock would be absorbed by the pillar.”
As per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), lithium-ion or lithium metal batteries, usually used for cell phones, laptops and portable chargers, are only allowed to be brought on an airplane in a carry-on bag and must adhere to regulations on wattage and weight.
While no one was hurt in the incident, all planes were temporarily halted and 24 among them were canceled. Thousands of travelers faced hours of delays.
Flights were deplaned and passengers waiting at the gates were asked to go through security again, according to a statement shared by the Orlando International Airport.
“I’m relieved that it wasn’t a worst-case scenario because it could have been and there would have been a lot of people hurt,” Perez said.
He explained he was inspired to join the TSA after 9/11.
“I lost a few friends,” he said. “TSA became available and I figured that was the way I could serve my country again.”