A woman who traveled from New Jersey to Charlotte aboard a United Airlines flight on Tuesday evening is now claiming that the male passenger who sat next to her sexually assaulted her while they were in the air.
Passengers on the flight recalled a bout of commotion in the back of the plane shortly after hitting a patch of turbulence, WSOC-TV reported. A flight attendant came through the cabin to instruct other passengers to remain seated until police could come aboard and apprehend a suspect.
“They said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, please stay in your seats. We have not been cleared to deboard the plane until authorities arrive,’” passenger Genevieve Becker told the station.
A 73-year-old man had allegedly placed his hands between the legs of his 37-year-old seatmate and groped her. He told investigators that his hand accidentally fell into her lap due to the turbulence, but the excuse did not ring true to other travelers.
“I’m sure a woman knows the difference between a hand hitting her versus being groped,” opined Sherrell Ealy.
The FBI will lead the investigation since the incident took place in the air. United Airlines said in a statement that it would fully cooperate.
“The safety of our customers is our top priority, and we are working closely with authorities as they conduct their investigation,” the airline said.
Earlier this year, a 16-year-old girl accused United Airlines of not doing enough to shield her from a man that groped her after she fell asleep aboard the airplane, claiming that a flight attendant just moved her from one seat to another and called it a day.
“I just felt like he could see me. Like he could see wherever I was sitting,” she said. “There was still so much time, like, I couldn’t just leave the plane. I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t feel like there was anyone on the plane that could protect me.”