An eagle-eyed flight attendant saved a teen girl from human trafficking by leaving a secret message for the victim in a cabin bathroom during a flight.
Alaska Airlines vet Shelia Fedrick swooped into action after noticing the disheveled girl with greasy blonde hair appeared out of place with the well-dressed older man who boarded with her in Seattle in 2011, she told NBC News.
“(The girl) looked like she had been through pure hell,” Fedrick said, estimating the girl’s age at 14 or 15 years old.
When the 49-year-old cabin crew member tried to engage the duo in conversation, the man acted defensive, she said.
“I left a note in one of the bathrooms,” Fedrick told NBC News. “She wrote back on the note and said, ‘I need help.'”
Fedrick quietly alerted the pilot, she said, and when the plane touched down in San Francisco, police were waiting for the man in the terminal.
The incredible story was highlighted at a training workshop organized by the nonprofit Airline Ambassadors to coincide with the Super Bowl.
The group’s founder Nancy Rivard and several colleagues met with about 100 flight attendants who volunteered for the two-day training session on how to recognize human trafficking, NBC reported.
Former victims spoke to the group about their experiences and instructors taught attendees how to spot and properly respond to passengers who appear scared, nervous or injured and people traveling with companions who don’t appear to be a relative, friend or proper guardian.
In 2016, human trafficking rose 35.7% in the U.S compared to the previous year, according to new data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 1,952 individuals for human trafficking last year and identified more than 400 victims exploited for forced labor or sex work, officials said last month.