A London law firm representing 16 girls in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania said Wednesday it is initiating legal proceedings against British Airways over allegations that one of its pilots sexually abused the girls during layovers.
The 54-year-old British Airways pilot, Simon Wood, who is now dead, was able to abuse the girls, between the ages of 8 and 20 years, because of his employment with the airline and the company's community outreach work, said lawyer Nichola Marshall of the firm Leigh Day.
"The schools and orphanages that our clients attended were all in receipt of charitable donations from the airline, and Wood played a key role in administering those donations, on behalf of British Airways," Marshall said in a statement.
British Airways said it was shocked and horrified by the allegations, which the company said appeared to be related to activities "entirely outside the scope of his employment with British Airways." The airline extended its sympathies to the victims.
"It is disappointing that the conduct of one person has caused so much distress to the many thousands of decent people who engage in charitable works on a regular basis," the company said in an email to The Associated Press.
Wood was struck by a train and died two weeks before he was to appear in court last August. He had faced charges of indecent assault of a girl under the age of 16 and making and possessing child pornography, the statement said. An investigation into his death began Wednesday, the law firm said.
Lawyer Marshall said a team will be traveling to meet with other potential victims who have recently come forward in Kenya and Uganda.