Saturday, October 22, 2005

Couple Tangles With Federal Officials Over Incident At Bradley

A $15 penknife found in a diaper bag at Bradley International Airport could wind up costing an Oxford couple $12,000 in civil penalties.Federal officials say the case against Christopher and Karen Lyons, scheduled for a hearing next week, stems from the deliberate concealment of a banned weapon in carry-on bags.

The Transportation Security Administration says the steep assessment is justified because the Lyonses admitted hiding the knife, a Swiss Army brand with a 2ΒΌ-inch blade, so it would not be confiscated.

It was found inside a full canister of Huggies baby wipes, midway down.

Chris Lyons, a corporate pilot who flew with the Marines in the 1991 Gulf War, and his wife, a former flight attendant, say the allegations are ridiculous.

They say they were as shocked as anyone when his red knife turned up during the X-ray scan last Feb. 23, as they and their 2-year-old son prepared to board a flight for a Disney World vacation. They said they must have lost track of the knife during their rush to get to the airport that morning.

"We didn't even know it had fallen out of his pocket," Karen Lyons said. She suggested the knife may have gotten into the wipes canister when she restocked it from another container. They also deny admitting to anyone that they tried to hide the knife. Charges outlined by the TSA dispute their version.

"On the above-mentioned date and place, you admitted to the Connecticut State Police that you did conceal the knife in question," says the agency's "notice of proposed civil penalty," sent to Karen Lyons on May 11. "You also made a statement that you were tired of losing knives at security checkpoints and that is why you and your husband attempted to conceal the knife."

The TSA said that under federal law, she and her husband are both liable for a penalty of as much as $10,000. It proposes a $6,000 fine each.

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