British police are investigating accusations an adult man had a sexual encounter and may have molested a 14-year-old girl in the bathroom of a cross-Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London last week.
A passenger on Norwegian Airlines flight 7094 said she and others became aware of the June 7 incident when the mother of the girl began screaming at the male passenger midway through the 10-hour flight, accusing him of raping the girl.
“Everyone on the plane was in shock and the cabin crew were surrounding the woman trying to hold her and her husband back from attacking the man,” passenger Sequoia Schmidt, 27, told Fox News. “I looked over to see the girl huddled in the back of the plane.”
A spokesperson for Norwegian Airlines confirmed that they are “aware of an incident onboard flight DI7094 and are assisting with authorities’ investigation.”
“The safety and well-being of our passengers are of paramount importance and the crew felt it was necessary to respond quickly and appropriately by arranging for the flight to be met by police as a precaution,” Anders Lindström, director of communications for the airline, said in a statement. “We take passenger allegations very seriously and we are fully cooperating with the authorities while this matter is being investigated.”
But Schmidt said Norweigan flight attendants were very slow to respond to the incident. Schmidt also said she was also shocked to hear the lead flight attendant tell the girl's family she didn't want to bother the flight's pilot about the incident, and asked the girl if she had enticed the man.
The incident apparently began when the girl went to the bathroom while her parents were asleep, according to Schmidt's account of the conversation between the family and the flight attendants. The man then followed the girl into the bathroom.
After waking up and realizing his daughter was missing, the father went looking for her, according to the family's account. That's when he saw the man come out of a bathroom, while the door immediately locked and closed behind him.
“That's when the father knew that the girl was in there,” Schmidt said. “They were locked in the bathroom together for a total of approximately 10 minutes - a 14-year-old girl, and a man in his mid-30s.”
Schmidt said questions were raised among the cabin crew over whether the police should be notified, at which point she said she intervened, insisting authorities be notified.
“This is a 14-year-old girl who was locked in the bathroom on an airplane with a grown man,” she said, alleging that a staff member claimed “it was consensual” and that the crew was handling the situation.
Schmidt said the girl was then separated from her parents, and seated in another part of the plane.
“Through the next two hours the girl was taken up to the front of the plane away from her parents. Her parents were confused and didn't understand what was going on," said Schmidt. "Authorities were waiting when we landed. Not only waiting to take her statement, but waiting to take me into custody for disrupting a flight.”
Schmidt said she spent about an hour being questioned by British security officials and later a US Department of Homeland security official, but not before being informed she was banned for life from flying Norwegian.
“I was just a bystander, but was very upset with how the situation was handled,” she added. “That there was even a question whether there would be police officers on the ground to take a statement.”
Gatwick Airport officials and DHS declined to offer further comment, referring the matter to airline representatives. Gatwick local police and the British Transport Police did not immediately respond for comment.