The FBI has ruled out human trafficking after Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants reported three young girls on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu as potential trafficking victims.
"We do appreciate Hawaiian Airlines employees for speaking out and saying something and bringing it to our attention," the FBI told KITV in Honolulu for a report on Friday. "We encourage people to remember that if something seems strange or doesn't feel right most times something is wrong, however, that was not the case in this incident."
The outlet had reported Thursday that flight attendant Wesley Hirata grew suspicious after he noticed an older man board the plane with three girls. Hirata reached out to his fellow flight attendants Crimson Foster and Kira Sunderland about his unease.
“Because of Wes’ strong instinct about the situation, I decided to go up to the girls and ask a few questions,” Foster said in a Hawaiian Airlines blog post.
Foster described the girls as nice but shy, adding they learned that one of them was underage.
“After seeing one of the girls he was traveling with was underage, I felt compelled to check on the passenger manifest,” Hirata said. “As a brother of two sisters – including one 10 years my junior – I couldn’t just ignore the situation under good conscience.”
All three girls were traveling under the same name.
“It was definitely a strange situation which I have never experienced in my 15-plus years of flying,” Hirata said.
Police were notified and were waiting to question the passengers when the flight landed in Honolulu. Hawaiian law enforcement officials labeled the situation a trafficking case, but the FBI confirmed the man was a family friend or relative, KITV reported Friday.
Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement to The Hill that they were very proud of their staff but would not provide additional comments.
Hirata said he's pleased that he followed his instincts.
"Trust your gut and prior experience (and) report the situation without alarming or confronting the passengers in a suspicious manner," Hirata told KITV.
Updated at 3:15 p.m. to reflect the FBI's statement