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Southwest Airlines Flies Sleeping Teen To Wrong City

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - An Arizona teenager said he overslept on a plane, missed a stop and ended up St. Louis, where a security guard he approached refused to help him. But an airport spokesman said Wednesday that surveillance video didn’t back up the boy’s account.

Erik McBee, 15, of the Phoenix area, was traveling to Tulsa, Okla., on a Southwest Airlines flight on Dec. 28. He told KPHO-TV in Phoenix that he overslept and wound up in St. Louis.

He and his mother told the TV station that Erik told his story to a Lambert-St. Louis International Airport security guard, but the guard said he couldn’t help.

But Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that video surveillance shows Erik leaving the airport terminal, but does not show him seeking help.

“It doesn’t appear that he asked for any assistance before leaving the building,” Lea said.

Airport police started a search the next day after receiving a call from one of Erik’s grandparents asking about his disappearance. Later that day, a woman brought Erik to the police station in Florissant, a St. Louis suburb, police Sgt. Kevin Boschert said. Officers contacted Erik’s family, took him to the airport, and Southwest put him on a flight home at no charge.

Erik said he spent his 24 hours in the St. Louis area without money or a cellphone. He was able to call 911 to ask for help.

“(They said) they’re not a taxi service and hung up,” he told the TV station.

Erik’s mother, Keena McBee, told KPHO her son went to a police station, but no one was there. It wasn’t clear which station that was. She said he was eventually able to get a stranger to help him.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said Erik’s flight arrived in Tulsa about 1:33 p.m. on Dec. 28 and took off for St. Louis about 40 minutes later.

Spokeswoman Ashley Dillon said Southwest crews do a head count to make sure they have the right number of continuing passengers before letting others board. The head count was correct before departing Tulsa, Dillon said. The airline is investigating.

Southwest had no record of Erik approaching an airline agent in St. Louis.

“We did everything we could to locate him right away,” Dillon said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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