Hunting rifle keeps Cape Coral pastor in Zambia

Published: Updated:

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – A pastor is stuck in Zambia after he said an airline assured him he had all the right documentation to take his hunting rifle overseas.

Tom Ascol made it to the southeastern African country just fine and even ended his three-week trip with a safari, donating the meat to local families.

But on Saturday when Ascol was ready to fly home on a connecting Emirates flight out of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, he was turned away.

The pastor booked his flights through JetBlue on Travelocity. But he also took flights with Emirates, which is JetBlue’s airline partner. A spokesperson with JetBlue said Ascol and other travelers should check with all the carriers in their itineraries.

“Because each carrier has different policies regarding traveling with firearms, customers connecting across multiple airlines should contact each airline well in advance of travel to become familiar with those policies,” JetBlue said in a written policy. “Customers should also research local customs regulations for transporting firearms in and out of the destination.”

Emirates airline officials refused to accept Ascol’s gun documents in Zambia, even though he had flown with them domestically. The African country has different rules about traveling with a firearm.

The gun was a gift from a close friend, Ascol said. But even if he wanted to leave it behind to go home, he couldn’t. A local customs official said since Ascol entered the country with the gun, he would be required to return to the United States with it.

That meant Ascol would be in Zambia a little longer than expected. His wife, Donna, said she hopes other flyers can learn from her husband’s extended stay.

“I’m praying him home,” she said. “I’m looking forward to him being home but I do hope JetBlue makes it right or other flyers will be aware.”

Ascol is staying with pastors in Zambia. JetBlue said it will refund the pastor for a portion of his flights. The pastor has paid $3,000 to fly home on a different airline.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.