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TSA to Train Officers in Suicide Prevention Due to Death & Accompanying Media Coverage


The agency started looking for a contractor for training just after WMFE aired TSA in Turmoilwhich found a pattern of abuse and retaliation at the agency in Orlando

ORLANDO — The TSA has elevated suicide prevention to a top priority for leadership after Robert Henry’s public suicide at the Orlando International Airport and the ensuing media coverage. 

Last month, 90.7 WMFE published TSA in Turmoil, a six-month-long investigation by reporters Danielle Prieur and Abe Aboraya, which found a pattern of abuse and retaliation among TSA workers at Orlando International Airport and at other airports across the country. The story was picked up by other public radio stations across Florida, including WLRN, WUSF, and WFSU, and it was included in Politico’s transportation newsletter, Morning Transportation, on Aug. 16.

Just a week or two after the series aired, TSA solicited for a contractor to create an online suicide training program for all TSA employees and to do in-person work with up to 50 TSA trainers. In the proposal obtained by WMFE, the agency said Henry’s suicide and the reporting afterward alerted the agency to the problem.

“The most recent workplace suicide of a transportation security officer (TSO) plunging to his death inside Orlando International Airport shocked the agency, and together with the accompanying media coverage alerted the agency to the growing, disturbing national public-health crisis,” the document says.

The proposal did not mention WMFE’s reporting by name. WMFE shared its findings with the TSA two months before the series aired, but the agency delayed responding to requests for comment. Once the series began airing in mid-August, the agency made Acting Deputy Administrator Patty Cogswell available for an interview.

Cogswell said that the agency had become increasingly aware of problematic working conditions at Orlando’s airport and vowed to examine and improve the lives of TSA employees across the agency.

“WMFE’s in-depth investigation discovered many TSA agents, charged with keeping the flying public safe, believed they were working in a toxic environment,” said Stephen Yasko, interim president and general manager and director of content for WMFE. “I’m proud of Abe Aboraya and Danielle Prieur’s work and hope this training program will prevent others from harming themselves.”

On February 2, 2019, Transportation Security Administration Officer Robert Henry jumped to his death from the 10th floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel inside Orlando International Airport. The last line of his suicide note stated: “Tell my managers I will be waiting for them in Hell. Especially the ones who feel this was necessary.”

Read the investigation at www.wmfe.org/tsa

About Community Communications Inc.:
Community Communications Inc. is a non-profit, member-supported, community-based public broadcasting company that operates 90.7 WMFE-FM, metro Orlando’s primary provider of NPR programming; 90.7-2 Classical; and 89.5 WMFV, public radio for The Villages, Leesburg and The Golden Triangle. Part of the community since 1980, Community Communications focuses on providing quality national and local news and programming. Visit wmfe.org and wmfv.org for more information.

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MEDIA INQUIRIES: Please contact Communications & Marketing Specialist Jenny Babcock at jbabcock@wmfe.org or 407-273-2300 ext. 112.