(Corrects headline to show human heads were not found on a
Southwest flight, but in a cargo facility.)
* Heads were for Medtronic facility in Fort Worth, Texas
* Heads were to be used for educational training
* Heads were duct taped with few details- Arkansas coroner
* "This is a very uncommon result" -Medtronic spokesman
By Kyle Peterson and Deepa Seetharaman
CHICAGO/NEW YORK, June 17 Officials in Arkansas
are investigating a shipment of 40 to 60 human heads found by
Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) employees at a cargo facility last
week in Little Rock, the Pulaski County coroner said on
The shipment of three separate containers was discovered
last Wednesday at the facility after employees saw the package
was "not labeled properly," Southwest spokeswoman Ashley Rogers
Employees opened the box last Wednesday evening, found the
heads and contacted local police, who turned the heads over to
the local coroner.
"They were basically in plastic containers with lids that
are not air sealed," Coroner Garland Camper said. "They were
duct taped with minimal information to disclose what was
The heads were being shipped to a Medtronic Inc (MDT.N)
facility in Fort Worth, Texas. They were for educational
training for neurosurgeons studying ear, nose and throat
procedures, said Medtronic spokesman Brian Henry.
Camper said there were between 40 and 60 heads packed in
three containers. Henry said the company had ordered four heads
and 40 skull parts, or the portion of the head with the ear.
"In this particular instance, they were going to be used
for educational training, which is routinely and commonly
done," Henry said.
It is not uncommon for heads used for research and
educational training to be shipped commercially, he said.
Medtronic, the world's largest independent medical device
company, employed Arkansas-based JLS Consulting to supply and
ship the head and head parts.
"It's a common practice," Henry said. "This is a very
Calls and an e-mail to JLS Consulting were not immediately
The 24-hour Southwest cargo facility is one of 70 operated
by the low-cost airline and typically handles shipments of
items like flowers and sea food, Rogers said.
Camper, the Pulaski Country coroner, said his office took
possession of the heads after being contacted by officials in
"Since then we have learned that the paperwork that we have
asked for does not quite meet the same description of the
specimens that we have," he said. "So we've got some
Camper said he wanted to confirm that the heads were not
being shipped as part of a black market for human body parts.
"We definitely want to make sure this is not a part of
something like that," he said.
Camper said that he has never encountered a case like this
in his career as a coroner.
(Reporting by Kyle Peterson in Chicago and Deepa
Seetharaman in New York. Additional reporting by Debra Sherman
in Chicago. Editing by Robert MacMillan)