Airport workers honored for stopping alleged rape
June 15, 2011
DENVER (AP) – Two aircraft mechanics who came to the aid of a woman they thought was being raped at Denver International Airport say they don’t consider themselves heroes – even if there are plenty of people who would disagree.
“We just kinda did what anybody should do,” Mark Adams said.
Adams of Denver and Kris Musil of Parker, Colo., say they witnessed the April incident from the jetway through a window and ran to help the woman.
The family of the woman has said she had missed a connecting flight at the airport and was waiting for the next plane when she and 26-year-old Noel Bertrand struck up a conversation at a restaurant.
They said Bertrand followed her out of the eatery, sat down beside her and tried to kiss her. When she refused, he threw her to the floor and assaulted her, according to the family.
The family has said that at least three people the woman believed to be airport workers walked by during the assault and did nothing.
Police say other people saw the incident and telephoned for help without intervening but provided good witness information for investigators. Airport officials say airport workers responded appropriately.
Musil said Tuesday that he and Adams had been working on the ramp shortly after midnight on April 12 when they noticed a commotion in the window.
“We really couldn’t tell what was going on. It looked like something was being stuffed into a suitcase,” Adams said.
It wasn’t until they saw hair flipping up as the suspect violently shook the victim that they realized it was a person being attacked.
“I looked over at Mark, yelled ‘Let’s go,’ and he was already on his way over,” Musil said.
The made it from the ramp to the gate in minutes, Adams said, and he started yelling at the suspect to “knock it off,” as soon as they got there.
“Mark got there a little before me, from one direction, and I came around the other direction. And (the suspect) was looking at Mark, and looked back at me, and kinda stopped,” Musil said.
Adams said the suspect tried to play off the incident by pretending he knew the woman and telling them they “don’t know the difference between rough sex and fighting.”
“But it was clear it was not something she was wanting to do,” Adams said.
Ed David, a sex crimes detective with the Denver police department, said the Frontier Airlines employees prevented a bad situation from turning worse.
“The victim stated that the suspect had grabbed her by the hair and shoulders, violently slamming her head against the floor. The suspect then sexually assaulted the victim,” David said.
David said the workers cornered the suspect and prevented the attacker from leaving the scene. David said their vigilance kept the investigation from hitting a dead end.
Police say Adams and Musil detained the suspect until security could arrive and helped the victim go through her luggage as she looked for an inhaler to calm her shallow, rapid breathing.
“Mr. Musil stated that she had been crying heavily and not able to catch her breath and had to use her inhaler several times,” David said.
Musil and Adams were presented by Denver police with the Bill Daniels Neighborhood Hero Award and $1,000 each on Tuesday for thwarting the alleged assault.
“If it had not been for their involvement in the incident, there is no doubt the victim could have been more seriously injured,” David said.
Bertrand, a former Marine from Portland, has been charged with one count each of sexual assault and kidnapping in the case.
Bertrand could face a sentence of up to 12 years in prison if convicted, but he would have to qualify for parole to be released and could end up imprisoned for life even after completing his term.
His public defender, Anna Salas, declined to comment.
Bertrand served in the Marines from 2003 to 2009 and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. His next court appearance is July 14.
The Associated Press does not use the names of people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified. The AP isn’t identifying the family members to protect the woman’s identity. Phone messages left by AP for the woman’s relatives on Tuesday weren’t immediately returned.
Musil and Adams wore jeans, baseball caps and Frontier shirts to the award ceremony. Both said they’re overwhelmed by the recognition.
“I’m not really used to anything like this,” Musil said.
Both said they’ve been working for the airline for almost 12 years and had never seen anything like the assault before. They haven’t spoken to the victim since that night, but say she mouthed “thank you” as she walked away.