‘Traumatized’ Florida mother suspected of trafficking her own child on Southwest Airlines flight speaks out

A mother’s “traumatizing” law enforcement experience traveling with her four-year-old son prompted her to call for changes from the government and airlines.

(Video: WXIX)

On Feb. 17, Bridgetta Tomarchio was making a routine trip from her home in Florida with her son Lucian to visit the boy’s father in Ohio. However, the journey took a detour at the car rental counter when she was approached by officers under suspicion of child trafficking.

“As I’m in Hertz getting my car, these two officers come in, and they say, ‘Excuse me, ma’am. This child, we have reason to believe is not your child and that you’re child trafficking him,'” the publicist recounted to Fox19 NOW after the incident.

Bodycam footage from the officers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport showed that she readily complied, incredulous at the accusation that had seemingly originated with the Southwest Airlines pilot.

“I found two insurance cards and found a museum card. Now, my son has a different last name than me, so I also handed them my ticket, and I said, ‘Here’s my ticket, here’s his ticket,’ and they said to me, ‘Oh, he has a ticket?'” the mother recalled.

“It’s traumatizing. I’m shaking inside, like thinking to myself, ‘What did I do?’ I don’t even understand what could have possibly happened,” said Tomarchio who went on to find fault with the airline, “It takes two seconds for you to go into the computer and see we fly for the past four years all the time with you guys — twice a month, usually.”

A statement from Southwest refuted the mother’s suggestion that any of their employees were responsible for prompting authorities to investigate her. “After further investigation, the information we have is that we’ve determined Southwest employees were not involved in this situation, as calls made to local authorities appeared to have been placed by an individual or individuals who are not affiliated with Southwest Airlines.”

“These are serious allegations and we appreciate the patience from the customer to allow us to look into these claims. Our customer engagement team will be in touch with the customer to further discuss the investigation,” added the airline.

Having expressed her gratitude to the officers for following through on the call, Tomarchio took to social media to promote the creation of some form of protocol for airlines to take before involving law enforcement.

“I am not only advocating for myself but for all single parents who may face similar challenges due to differences in last names and physical appearances,” she said.

 

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A post shared by Bridgetta Tomarchio (@realbridgetta)

To her point, in August it had been reported that Mary MacCarthy, a white mother of a black daughter, had filed suit against Southwest Airlines after she alleged that she was racially profiled when she had also been stopped under suspicion of child trafficking in 2021 en route to her brother’s funeral.

“To this day, when Moira and I are out in public,” MacCarthy had told Newsweek at the time, “and especially at airports or on planes–I’m hyperaware that we might be judged and reported for any interaction we have with each other.”

In the wake of the incident, Tomarchio launched a change.org petition proposing a requirement that children traveling by plane have a government-issued ID stating the names of both legal parents.

“This measure will not only protect children but also reassure parents about their children’s safety during air travel. It will help airlines establish clear protocols around child passengers and ensure they are traveling with legitimate guardians or parents,” she argued.

Kevin Haggerty

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