Denver airport security screeners argued instead of stopping man who breached security

Friday, January 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ An airport security worker was fired after he argued with a co-worker instead of immediately stopping a man who bypassed a metal detector. The mistake forced the evacuation of a concourse and the rescreening of 2,500 passengers.

The dispute Sunday between Argenbright Security employees at Denver International Airport gave the man enough time get on the airport train and take it to one of the airport's three concourses. Passengers in the concourse had to be rescreened, delaying 27 flights.

``That conversation should never have happened. If someone calls a breach, you deal with it immediately,'' said Kenneth Bostock, Denver manager for United Airlines, which hired Argenbright to screen passengers.

Argenbright fired the screener who refused another's call for a breach alarm, spokeswoman Sara Jackson said Thursday. The other screener had been suspended, but was reinstated.

The incident started when a passenger escorting his mother in a wheelchair cleared security but then told a screener he'd forgotten a package.

The screener told him to go through security again after getting the package, but the passenger returned through the wheelchair gate without being rechecked, Bostock said.

The two workers argued about whether the man had been screened, then finally called for an alarm about 30 seconds later, Bostock said. The evacuation and rescreening was ordered because the delay raised the possibility that the man would have had time to pass a weapon to someone else.

The man was questioned and released.

Argenbright has faced criticism at other airports for alleged violations of federal safety rules. The company ceased operations last month at Boston's Logan International Airport after several breaches and was fined $1 million for hiring convicted felons.