The FBI is investigating an incident aboard a United Airlines flight, during which a female passenger claimed she was sexually assaulted by the man seated beside her.
The alleged incident took place Tuesday evening during a flight from New Jersey to Charlotte, N.C., WSOC-TV reported. Sources for the site said the woman, 37, had informed the crew of the male passenger’s behavior, telling them that he had placed his hands between her legs and groped her.
Flight attendants reportedly separated the two and told passengers to remain seated after landing. Upon arrival, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrived to remove the man, who is 73 years old, from the plane.
Federal authorities will be investigating the claim, as it happened outside of the local police’s jurisdiction, Fox 46 noted.
United is also cooperating with the FBI’s investigation.
"The safety of our customers is our top priority, and we are working closely with authorities as they conduct their investigation," said United in a statement.
The suspect, from Lithuania, later told investigators that his hand merely fell into the woman’s lap by accident, WSOC-TV reported.
A fellow passenger who spoke to the station, however, said the man's account seems highly unlikely.
"I'm sure a woman knows the difference between a hand hitting her versus being groped," said Sherrell Ealy.
The case is just one of several similar mid-flight groping incidents reported in recent years. In July, a 28-year-old doctor was charged with engaging in sexual conduct with a minor after allegedly groping a 16-year-old while she slept aboard a United Airlines flight.
Also this year, an Oregon woman pleaded guilty to licking and groping a female passenger aboard a 2016 Alaska Airlines flight, and a California man was accused of groping and kissing a 16-year-old girl while she slept on a separate 2016 Alaska Airlines flight.