A heroic flight attendant has saved a teenage girl from human trafficking after a sex trafficker took her aboard an Alaska Airlines flight.
Flight attendant Shelia Fedrick, 49, was aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco in 2011 when she noticed a girl, about 14 or 15 years old and with greasy blonde hair, who was sitting by the window of aisle 10.
The girl was flying with a much older well-dressed man, who was sitting beside her.
Ms Fedrick thought the difference in age and appearance between the travelling companions was odd. Then, instinctively, she felt something was wrong. Her suspicions grew when she tried to talk with the pair and the man became defensive while the girl refused to speak nor even just make eye contact.
Then, Ms Fedrick was convinced something wasn’t right and quickly came up with a plan.
Under her breath, she convinced the girl to go to the bathroom, where she had left her a note stuck to the mirror.
Then, the girl wrote back on the note: “I need help”, she told NBC News
Hurriedly, Ms Fedrick alerted the pilot, who alerted the police. By the time the flight touched down in San Francisco, police were waiting at the terminal. It was then revealed that the girl was a victim of human trafficking and Ms Fedrick had just saved her life.
“I’ve been a flight attendant for ten years and it’s like I am going all the way back to when I was in training. And I was like, I could have seen these young girls and young boys and didn’t even know,” Ms Fedrick told Florida broadcaster WTSP.
“If you see something, say something.”
Airline Ambassadors, a US-based group, trains flight attendants on how to spot and report victims of human trafficking on flights. The flight attendants have learnt to look for passengers who seem frightened, ashamed or nervous, those travelling with older people who don’t appear to be a parent or relative, and children and adults who bear signs of physical abuse or having been drugged. The flight attendants have also been trained to take note if someone speaks for an alleged victim or becomes defensive when questioned.
They’ve also been told to resist the temptation to rescue a victim, and instead tell the pilot, who can alert and hand them over to authorities, who will then pursue the case.
Ms Fedrick said she has since been in touch with the teenage girl she helped rescue from a sex trafficker. “I put my phone number on the note that I left for her and I guess she memorised it, so a few weeks later, she called me,” she said.
She said the young girl is now a college student.