Guard says sorry after medical gear bomb gaffe

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2013
Steph Alty with her daughter
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
SECURITY STANDOFF: Johnsonville mother Steph Alty says a security officer at Auckland Airport who mistook her disabled daughter’s suction machine for a bomb "was full-on attacking me and accusing me of having a bomb".

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The airport security guard who mistook a disabled toddler's medical equipment for a bomb has apologised.

The written apology arrived in Johnsonville mother Steph Alty's mailbox yesterday.

Alty, 23, became upset after her 19-month-old daughter Aaliyah's suction machine was mistaken for a bomb at Auckland Airport last week.

Aaliyah has severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy and needs the machine to stop her drowning in her own mucus.

She and her mother were travelling back from Auckland with Alty's little brother Charlie, 11, when the officer repeatedly questioned what the machine was as it went through an X-ray scanner.

Finally, he asked her if it was a bomb. Aviation Security Services general manager Mark Wheeler said the officer had correctly identified a potential hazard - a lead acid battery within the device - but he accepted he "did not communicate this in a caring way".

The service has asked for copies of the documentation and model details of the machine to make future identification of similar devices easier.

In the letter the officer apologised, saying it was not his intention to create a stressful situation but that he was trying to ensure no dangerous items got on board.

He wished the family a merry Christmas and hoped they could put the incident behind them.

Alty said she accepted the apology and bore no grudge to the officer or the security service. "I'm happy he acknowledged what he did was wrong."

The officer will not face formal disciplinary action.

The family has been offered a behind-the-scenes tour of airport security, which Alty said was greeted with enthusiasm by Charlie.

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- Fairfax Media

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