by Donald Wood
Last updated: 9:02 AM ET, Fri February 26, 2021
A plane preparing to take off from Florida on Monday was forced to return to the gate after a passenger accidentally discharged pepper spray.
According to FOX 4 Southwest Florida, United Airlines Flight 1061 was taxiing to the runway at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers for a journey to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey when the incident occurred.
While a United spokesperson confirmed the flight returned to the gate "due to a disruptive incident involving a customer prior to take off," a traveler on the plane named Joseph Grande revealed that a man accidentally hit the pepper spray on his keychain.
Grande said the passengers onboard felt burning in their throats and started coughing, causing major concerns during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Some travelers chose to exit the cabin and board a later flight, but United said the impacted plane was cleared to depart after a short cleanup.
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson said travelers are permitted to bring one small container of mace or pepper spray in checked baggage as long as it has a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.
When asked about the onboard incident, TSA officials admitted that security agents working the checkpoints at the Fort Myers airport missed the spray canister. As a result, the employees have undergone a refresher course to avoid similar incidents.
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