A flight attendant has been hailed a hero after saving a young girl from the hands of a human trafficker.
Flying to San Francisco in 2011, flight attendant Sheila Fedrik noticed a 15-year-old girl accompanied by an older gentleman. The young girl appeared “dishevelled” with greasy hair whereas the older gentleman was well-dressed.
The 49-year-old flight attendant working on the Alaska Airlines flight instantly knew that something was wrong. Sheila said, “something in the back of my mind said something was not right”.
When the flight attendant tried to speak to the pair, the man grew defensive. Sheila also noticed that the young girl would not engage in conversation.
Sheila then left a note on a mirror in one of the bathrooms for the young girl. The young girl then responded to the message, writing back, “I need help”.
The flight attendant then called the pilot, informing him of the two passengers. When the flight landed in San Francisco, police were waiting in the terminal. The man was then arrested.
This case comes after increased efforts to train America’s airline staff to recognise the signs of human trafficking. Staff must be able to use intuition, as Sheila did, and flag up anything that appears suspicious. Of course, it depends on a destination. It could hardly happen when flying from San Jose to Tambor, Costa Rica. This a vacation destination, so passengers are usually excited they can get some rest.
The U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 2000 human traffickers and identified 400 victims of trafficking last year alone.
During Airline Ambassador training sessions, airline staff are trained to notice controlling behaviour. They are also trained to look out for passengers who appear to be nervous, frightened, or ashamed.
Additionally, they must also look out for signs of drugging. Fedrick highlighted the importance of training. She said “it’s like I am going all the way back to when I was in training”.
Former flight attendant, Nancy Rivard, will continue to teach attendants how to spot the signs.
Sheila Fedrik has reportedly kept in contact with the young girl she helped save in 2011. The young girl is now attending University.
Photo Credit: Makaristos