Woman fondled by Comrades runner

2014-06-03 00:00

A LOCAL woman on a flight home to South Africa was shocked to be awakened by the alleged inappropriate fondling of a Comrades Marathon runner.

The young woman said she was on a South African Airways flight from Mumbai, India, to South Africa last Thursday and was seated next to the runner.

She told The Witness they had chatted generally on the plane before she went to sleep.

The woman, who cannot be named, said she still could not believe that this happened on a plane where she was supposed to be safe.

“I covered myself with a blanket soon after take-off and went to sleep. About four hours into the flight, I was awakened by a hand that touched me inappropriately. I was startled and screamed until a flight attendant came to me. [The man] was trying to prevent me from reporting the incident to the crew,” she said.

At the time, it was dark in the plane and other travellers were also asleep.

She was then moved away from the seat she was in and the man later sent a letter apologising for the incident.

“He sent a letter to apologise but I did not accept it. I later met with him and the crew to get his passport details. He begged for mercy because of his wife and child in India. He tried to justify his actions.

“He claimed that he thought I was his wife, who was not even on the flight. I’m so appalled that this could happen on a international flight. We pay good money to travel. Airlines need to highlight smoking less and start speaking about real issues that happen on flights,” she said angrily.

“I was traumatised and in shock. I did not know what to do as there were 15 members of his running club on the plane. I was alone on this trip. When we arrived at O.R. Tambo International Airport, I asked to be escorted to the connecting flight to Durban. I had to stay behind until all the passengers left the plane.”

She added that when she arrived home, she reported the matter to the police in Pietermaritzburg. She even sent an e-mail to the Comrades Marathon Association to inform them.

She helped the police to track the man in Durban by calling many hotels and giving his name.

Comrades Marathon Association’s Chris Bruwer said he was saddened to hear of this unfortunate incident. “We will investigate further.”

The man ran the race on Sunday.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said they have launched an internal investigation. “SAA views the matter in a serious light and will co-operate fully with the law enforcement agencies.

“Should there be evidence suggesting that our staff did not follow procedures in attending to matters of this nature, SAA will not hesitate to institute disciplinary steps,” said Tlali.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said they are investigating an indecent assault case.

“A 33-year-old man was arrested and the docket will be transferred to O.R. Tambo International Airport for further investigation,” said Zwane. The man is still in South Africa.

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