A dead fetus discovered in a lavatory aboard an American Airlines flight has been identified as belonging to a pregnant Brooklyn teenager.
The 18-year-old appears to have suffered a miscarriage inside the tight confines of the bathroom while her twin sister stood guard outside the door to ward off any suspicious crew, according to law enforcement sources who spoke to the New York Post.
Mile high miscarriage
The tragedy occurred after American Airlines Flight 1942 touched down at 10:42 p.m. at LaGuardia Airport on Monday night, the Post reported. With all of the passengers deplaned, the sibling told flight attendants that her sister needed the latrine for an “emergency,” before the teen rushed into the stall.
A flight attendant told police that when the girl emerged from the bathroom, she looked sick. After leaving the airport, records indicate that the teen checked herself into the Kings County Hospital at approximately 12:30 a.m. for treatment.
A cleaning crew discovered the dead fetus the following morning at 7:30 a.m. after the aircraft, an Airbus A321, was moved into a hangar for maintenance. Initial reports from The Sun suggested that the baby’s corpse was discovered inside the toilet.
The body was approximately 12 inches long and appeared to be anywhere from three to six months along, sources say.
Authorities said that they want to speak to the twin girls, although law enforcement officials say that they are approaching the investigation as a miscarriage, and not a murder. An autopsy is expected to be performed.
Later that morning, representatives from LaGuardia tweeted that delays were expected due to the ongoing investigation at Terminal B. “American Airlines flights at Terminal B may experience some delays due to an out of service aircraft. Please check with @AmericanAir before your departure,” officials wrote.
However, the probe seemed to progress quickly, and American Airlines reported moments later that, “We have no major impact to our operation this morning while we are working with law enforcement on an investigation.”
The City Medical Examiner was called in to assist the Queens district attorney’s office. “The OCME can confirm we’re investigating what we believe to be a human fetus found deceased on an airplane,” the agency reported.
The airplane will remain at LaGuardia’s Terminal B until the investigation is concluded. American Airlines released a statement explaining that they are continuing to help investigators: “As we continue to learn more about this tragic and sensitive situation, we are actively cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation,” they wrote.
For decades, scientists have speculated that frequent flying can precipitate a premature pregnancy or cause health complications for the mother and the baby. A handful of studies conducted over the years have hypothesized that a lack of oxygen, radiation and other environmental conditions existing at high altitudes could threaten pregnancies.
One of the more exhaustive studies looked at flight attendant medical records and was published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 1999. Although the 19-year investigation determined that flight attendants who worked during their first trimester had a slightly higher risk of miscarriage, it was impossible to tell if the hazards associated with working at high altitude during the early stages of pregnancy would apply in other environments, as well.
Radiation exposure for pregnant women was minimal, and low pressure in airplane cabins does not appear to affect the oxygen supply that unborn babies receive. “The bottom line,” according to a New York Times report examining the results of multiple studies, is that “[a]ir travel during pregnancy is considered safe.”