Human heads mislabeled on Southwest cargo flight


by Jason Whitely,

Posted on June 17, 2010 at 2:55 PM

DALLAS — A Southwest Airlines employee at the Little Rock National Airport called police after finding a container with dozens of human heads inside.

The shipment was bound for Dallas Love Field, but it never got on that plane.

It's a strange story that has a lot of people talking at Southwest Airlines headquarters in Dallas.

The story begins one week ago when the Southwest cargo agent opened the container bound for a Fort Worth medical lab. The agent became curious because the container had not been clearly labeled.

The FAA told News 8 that the airline worker discovered 40 to 60 human heads or parts of human heads inside.

Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper seized the shipment. "We've got issues of human body parts that are being transported throughout the country but via here in Arkansas," he said. "We understand — both of us — that there is a need, a want for human body parts. There's an underground market for these things, and we want to make sure that we haven't stumbled on some type of underground market."

It turns out that there is apparently nothing sinister about the shipment, but the coroner's office still wants to confirm that before releasing the cargo.

The heads were being shipped by JLS Consulting LLC of Conway, Arkansas to Fort Worth. JLS founder Janice Hepler said the heads are to be used in a continuing-education program for physicians.

She said it is illegal to buy or sell body parts — but companies can charge fees for preparing or transporting bodies. She said she works with human specimens to produce educational courses.

The FAA said the shipper did not violate any packaging rules; Southwest Airlines says the issue centers on labeling.

Carriers routinely transport medical shipments like this every day. Had this one been more clearly labeled, it's unlikely it would have ever become a news story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.