ANNE ARUNDEL CO., Md. - A frantic search that ended in a tragedy at Baltimore–Washington International Airport.
A cat was found dead underneath a conveyer belt after it somehow got out of its cage on the tarmac.
Sandra Dale, the owner of the cat said it all could have been avoided if she was properly checked in when she got the airport three and a half hours early.
She said she tried numerous times to get her two cats, her son, and herself checked in and on to TSA but was stuck at the check-in line for hours.
“She finally got us on the flight but it was already after 9 am our plane was supposed to leave at 9:36,” Dale said.
The military family was supposed to be in Hawaii by now starting their new life with their two rescue cats.
Instead, they are spending the night in a hotel near the airport, and one of their pets will never make that trip.
Bells, a 2-year-old rescue, and her sister Charlee were first time fliers.
Sandra was finally able to get the pets to the TSA checkout point.
“I put her back in and I close the carrier. I know how to use the carrier obviously they should too. I took Charlie out did the same thing put her back in closed up.”
She said a TSA worker told her to hurry and make it to the flight and they would take care of the pets.
She made it to the departure gate just 3 minutes after the plane was set to take off, initially relieved that it hadn’t taken off.
“I heard someone talking about cats on the radio and the phone rang and she said it’s for you. I was like okay maybe they’re just giving us a new flight now they know they couldn’t get us back on. It was a lady and she said I know you don’t want to hear this but one of your cats isn’t in the crate. I said what? She said one of the cats are not in the crate.”
Bells got out while they were taking the pets out to the plane.
The shocked pet owner was brought out to the tarmac where she saw Charlee and the empty cage where Bells was supposed to be.
“The crate had been opened before it wasn’t clasped, but it was shut and they had one zip tie at the top,” said Dale.
She compared searching the airport for a scared cat like looking for a needle in a haystack.
An airport employee thought they saw her but by the time Dale got there no Bells.
“I walked through all day every single, what I thought was every single inch. We looked inside the Carriers every nook every cranny. Every building that was open and we hadn’t seen her at all.”
Over ten hours of searching, then the phone rang the morning after.
“He said I’m sorry to tell you this but we did find a black cat on the property but he’s deceased. I just said I need someone to come pick me up now. Right now. I thought he was going to tell me that they found her.”
When she got to the airport she found Bells dead under a conveyor belt. There was Bells dead under a conveyor belt.
“I took her to my vet and they did X-rays and stuff and there’s no way it could have been that conveyor belt,” Dale said. “I think she got ran over this morning it was definitely this morning because when I looked at her in there and I pet her she was really warm still really warm and he paws were soft and bending.”
Bates said that Delta has been helpful providing a place for them to stay and is working to get her accommodations so that Charlee-- the family’s other cat-- can fly with them to Hawaii as soon as possible.
Here is the statement that they sent to WMAR2 when we reached out.
“Delta extends our deepest condolences to Bells’ family as we know the safety and well being of pets while in our care is extremely important. We are conducting a thorough review of this unfortunate situation to understand how Bells may have escaped from her kennel and ensure this does not happen again. We continue to work closely with the family, offering our full support and help during this difficult time.”