Elizabeth Strecker forgot that her prosthetic breast was made of gel, a material that's prohibited in certain quantities on aircraft, her daughter-in-law says.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is apologizing after an 82-year-old B.C. woman was reduced to tears at Calgary International Airport security screening.
Calgarian Karin Strecker said her mother-in-law Elizabeth Strecker of Abbotsford thought people were laughing at her when she forgot to mention she had a breast prosthesis at security screening last week.
The prosthesis, which she got after a bout with breast cancer five years ago, is made of gel, which isn't allowed through security.
"She said to me that she was asked if she had any liquid or gel, and she had said no, not thinking that the prosthesis is gel," Karin told CBC News.
"They said she was lying. And she didn't mean to. She said, 'I'm not lying.' She didn't think about that you have to say you have the prosthesis."
Elizabeth was patted down by two female CATSA employees.
She was then put through the full-body scanner, for which she was asked to raise her arms, Karin said.
"She has trouble lifting her one arm up, because of the muscle tissue and the surgery and everything, so she was trying to use her other arm to lift her other arm. They said, 'You can't do that, you have to lift your arms up.' And it's very painful," Karin said.
Air security agency investigating
Elizabeth was ultimately allowed through to the aircraft and flew home to Vancouver.
"She called me after, when she came home. She was upset and crying and then she said, 'Karin, I don't think I'm ever going to travel again.'"
Karin said she tried calling the Calgary airport, but couldn't get through to anyone.
On Friday, CATSA said it is investigating the incident. Still, CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque said he wants to apologize.
"We regret that the passenger didn't have a pleasant experience, and we'll apologize for that," Larocque said. "If there are things we can learn and we can apply to our procedures, that's what the investigation will tell us."
Jody Moseley, director of communications for the airport authority, said she has asked for a full report from CATSA's investigation as soon as possible.
She said the security process should not supersede the respect for passengers, adding she's deeply concerned that Strecker went through the experience.
Karin said she hopes her mother-in-law's case would make it easier for other vulnerable people, such as seniors, to be treated respectfully by airport security personnel.