NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 16-year-old girl is speaking out after she says she was sexually assaulted on a United Airlines flight from Seattle to Newark back in July.
The girl was traveling alone, sleeping on her overnight United flight to Newark, when she says she awoke to find the stranger sitting next to her touching her.
“I knew what was going on but I just thought I was dreaming or something, like, this cannot really be happening,” the teen said. “I could feel his hand on my thigh, and one of his hands had like came between my legs and he was rubbing me between my legs.”
She reported it to a flight attendant, who moved her to another seat a few rows up and when the plane parked at the gate in Newark, the teenager says everyone simply walked off, including the man she says sexually assaulted her.
“I literally thought I was going to die,” the girl’s mother said. “I’m 3,000 miles away. My child says she’s been sexually assaulted and I’m asking her questions and she’s like, disoriented, I’m like, ‘Where is he? Do you see him?’ And she said, ‘He just walked by me.’ And I said, ‘Get the police! Get United!'”
But her mother says she was shocked by United’s response.
“At that point the supervisor told me that United did not follow their own protocols. She said, ‘you were the first person telling me of your daughter’s assault. I don’t have a manifest. I don’t have a report. I don’t even know who he is or where he is,'” the mother said.
Later that day, police and the FBI, which handles incidents in the air, did track down a passenger and arrest him. Vijakumar Krishnappa, a visiting doctor on a fellowship according to one medical center, is charged with one count of abusive sexual contact on an airplane. His attorney says Krishnappa “adamantly denies the charges and deserves to be considered an innocent man.”
“He had no right to touch me. He had no right. I guess I would say he took my peace of mind,” the girl said. “I don’t feel safe.”
United did not answer CBS’s questions, including about its protocol for reporting sexual assaults, instead saying in a statement, “We take these allegations seriously…” and are working with the authorities.
The FAA told CBS that airlines do regularly summon law enforcement to meet airplanes for alleged crimes but one travel expert said it’s up to the airline. It’s not clear what happened in this case.