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USA: Woman sexually assaulted at Denver International Airport

Publish Date: 13 Apr 2011
Source: ABC News
By: Clayton Sandell

Victim Says Airport Employees Saw What Happened and Did Nothing

Officials at Denver International Airport, the nation's fifth-busiest, are reviewing whether their employees did enough to help stop a brutal sexual assault on a female passenger that took place in plain sight inside an airport concourse.

A 22-year-old Oregon woman traveling from Portland said that she missed her connecting to flight to Illinois Monday night. With no money for a hotel, she decided to stay overnight in the concourse.

The woman said she went to an airport restaurant bar and struck up a conversation with a man who told her he was also from Portland. When the restaurant closed, the woman says she left to find a seat. The man, she said, followed her and sat down beside her.

"I sit up and he's leaned in and he asks, 'Can I kiss you?' And when I tell him that's too forward, before I could finish my statement, he had already pulled me in to kiss him. And he forcefully held me there," the woman told ABC affiliate KMGH-TV.

"I couldn't talk. I couldn't say anything," the victim said. "He grabbed me and held my neck to the ground. I started to stress out, and I couldn't breathe very well. I started to tense up and I started to get an asthma attack."

Victim Says Airport Staff Ignored Attack

The victim said the man sexually assaulted her for ten minutes, just after midnight in the deserted terminal, but that two airport janitors passed by during the attack and did not stop to help.

"Another employee walked by, a female, and she looked and she walked away and kept walking. I was just so upset that I couldn't focus on what was going on. I just kept getting my head thrown down," the woman said.

Eventually a private security guard intervened and called for police help, who arrived and arrested 26-year-old Noel Alexander Bertrand of Portland, Ore.

"He was trying to tell them that we were just having sex. It was a lover's quarrel," she said. "A woman getting beaten on the ground is not a lover's quarrel."

The woman, who was on her way to Illinois to interview for a job at a convent, also suffered cuts and bruises.

Denver International Airport spokesperson Laura Coale insisted the airport is safe, although she said they will investigate whether any airport employees may have failed to report the incident.

"Every airport employee, on the back of our badge, we have a number to call in case of emergency. So I know that there's probably going to be some further discussions," she said. "We do have multiple layers of security at the airport. We absolutely do feel that the airport is a safe environment."

While the investigation is still underway, the airport released a statement Wednesday defending its employees.

"To the best of our knowledge, airport employees who witnessed the incident responded immediately by either calling for help or intervening in the situation," the statement read.

Coale said surveillance cameras captured the sequence of events leading up to the attack, but not the sexual assault itself.

A woman who said she is Bertrand's grandmother told KMGH that he is a former U.S. Marine.

A Denver police spokesman said Bertrand is in custody on suspicion of assault and felony sexual assault. He appeared in a Denver court this morning, where a judge set a $50,000 bond.

Copyright © 2011 ABC News