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Anchorage airport seeks traveler who left human ashes at security checkpoint

If you traveled through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport last August with cremated remains, you may want to check your urn to ensure they’re still in there, airport police say.

Someone traveling through the airport with a Ziploc bag containing human ashes left the bag at a security checkpoint, said Sgt. Dan Juarez of Airport Police and Fire.

The ashes sat in the lost-and-found for more than six months before airport police were notified, Juarez said, and police have had no luck locating the owner. The bag doesn’t contain any identifying information or markings.

“The is the first time we’ve had to deal with this,” Juarez said. “It is unusual.”

The police department on Tuesday put out a call on Facebook in hopes of locating the owner of the ashes, which are now sitting unclaimed in the department’s evidence unit. If no one claims them within the next few weeks, they’ll be given to a local cremation center and put in storage.

“I want people to share it as much as possible and hopefully it will jog some family member out there to check the urn,” Juarez said.

It’s unclear why no one has returned for the ashes, but Juarez guesses the owner hasn’t realized they’re missing — if they haven’t opened their urn since traveling with it, they may assume the remains are still in there, he said.

Transportation Security Administration agents aren’t allowed to remove cremated remains from containers during a security screening “out of respect for the deceased,” according to the agency’s website.

The TSA recommends that ashes be kept in a temporary container made out of a lightweight material, like wood or plastic, so it can more easily pass through an X-ray machine. However, if a container can’t be cleared, that still doesn’t mean agents can remove the contents — the container simply won’t be allowed through.

That means that, assuming the ashes were carried in another container besides just the plastic bag, they would have been removed by the traveler, Juarez said.

Although there are security cameras at the checkpoint that might have been able to identify who that person is, by the time police were notified about the ashes, the footage had been overwritten and the traveler was long gone, Juarez said.

The police department wouldn’t release additional information it has about the remains, in hopes that the person who comes forward can verify they’re the true owner.

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