A Washington dad’s heart stopped when his daughter called and was barely able to communicate through her hysteric tears that a man was following her at the airport.
He shared his daughter’s experience on Facebook to remind travelers to be aware of their surroundings and to thank the Alaska Airlines employees who made sure his daughter arrived at her destination safely.
“During her layover, my wife and I get a phone call from her sobbing over the phone,” his post began. “She could only get out the words ‘There’s a man coming after me’, before more tears. Our hearts both stopped. Here’s the story and why Alaska Airlines has become our favorite airline.”
Mikaila Wyatt, 18, was flying alone from Sacramento, California, to Walla Walla, Washington, to celebrate her recent graduation from high school on Aug. 5, 2019.
During her layover at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, she began to look for something to eat when a man passed her, stopped to look at her and immediately changed his course of direction.
“He then turned around and followed her close enough that she could feel his presence,” Matthew Wyatt, Mikaila’s dad, wrote on Facebook. “She got on the train that took her to her gate, and he got on with her. Standing next to her, he got on the phone and started talking in hushed tones. He followed her all the way to her gate before leaving.”
After the man left, Mikaila relaxed, thinking that he had given up, but when he returned 30 minutes later she realized that he also had a plane ticket to Walla Walla. He would be flying with her.
Realizing how much danger she could be in, she left her gate but became more panicked when she realized that he was still following her.
She called her parents and tried to convey what was happening to her through her tears.
“My daughter has had very few moments in her life where she couldn’t talk because of tears,” Matthew, who is also a pastor, told The Western Journal. “This was a time like I’ve never heard her before. She was sobbing, couldn’t catch her breath, and couldn’t fully tell us what was happening. The words that I’ll never forget were ‘There’s a man coming after me.'”
Mathew said that he and his wife encouraged her to seek help from an airport employee, but felt powerless over the phone.
“I felt instant fear and a deepened sense of helplessness because I couldn’t do anything over the phone,” he remembered.
According to Matthew’s post that later recounted the harrowing series of events, Mikaila wasn’t sure what to do next because her flight began to board so she returned to her gate. The man continued to position himself so he could be close to her.
Once her group was called, Mikaila walked outside to board the small plane and when she saw an employee, she immediately tried to tell him about the man who had been following her.
“As they walked outside to board the small plane, she went up to one of the ground personnel that load the plane, and fell into his arms,” the father wrote. “She tried explaining through her tears what was happening.”
That employee then escorted her into a “safe room” so she could calm down and give them more details. Seven men then escorted her onto the plane where the pilot, Matt Gallagher, assured her that they would bring her home safely.
Gallagher brought her into the cockpit, offered her a seat next to a flight attendant and told her that she would be the first to exit the plane.
Matthew and his wife, Krystal, were anxiously waiting for their daughter in Walla Walla.
“We had to wait for a text message from her saying that she was safe and she would tell us everything once she landed. It was only then that I was able to calm down a little,” he told The Western Journal. “But even then, my heart hurt and we made sure to be at the airport early just in case the flight was early.”
The pilot not only made sure that Mikaila was the first to exit the plane, but he also escorted her to her parents.
“I saw my daughter being the only one led off the plane with the pilot,” Matthew Wyatt said. “It was then that my emotions got the best of me. I could have cried but I knew that I had to keep it together for my daughter. Matt walked her through the terminal doors and made sure that I was her father before having her come over to me.”
Matthew was impressed with how employees from Alaska Airlines and the Seattle-Tacoma airport listened to Mikaila and took necessary steps to make her feel safe. He even asked the pilot if he could take a picture of him with Mikaila.
The man continued to lurk near Mikaila and her family at baggage claim, but she was no longer alone.
Since then, various airline employees have reached out to Mikaila and her family to express how thankful they are that she was able to arrive home safely and mentioned that incidents similar to hers are more common than many people realize.
Mikaila’s dad told The Western Journal that he decided to share her experience on Facebook to bring awareness to a safety threat he and his family weren’t aware of before.
“Before this incident, I didn’t know that this was even an issue at all,” he said. “I thought ‘If I didn’t know, how many more people out there don’t know that there are predators at the airports?'”
He is also thankful that his daughter was being intentionally aware of her surroundings and noticed that the man was following her.
“I’m just thankful my daughter didn’t have her nose in her phone, or she may have missed paying attention to her surroundings,” he told The Western Journal. “We may have had a different ending to this story. An ending that I refuse for my mind to go down that path.”
The Western Journal had reached out Alaska Airlines for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this story if and when we do.
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