Man arrested on flight to Orlando in sex abuse of minor, cops say. He offered an excuse

Paul Sakuma/AP File

A disturbing incident occurred on a Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Orlando late last week.

According to an affidavit first obtained by The Daily Beast, a 51-year-old California resident traveling on Flight 2954 is accused of allegedly groping a minor who was seated next to him in the early hours of Friday.

A criminal complaint filed in the Middle District of Florida said that Brian Patrick Durning, of Altadena, was arrested hours later by federal agents upon landing at Orlando International Airport.

The court document says a girl, referred to as “MV” (for “minor victim” older than 12, but younger than 16), was sitting in the middle seat and was allegedly touched by Durning, who was on the aisle to her left. The child’s mother sat two rows ahead, reportedly due to a reservation issue.

The girl later told investigators that Durning began “to cough and sneeze” on her, then says he touched her “hair and neck” before moving onto other more intimate body parts.

Durning “reached over to touch her inner left thigh, moving her thigh toward him,” the affidavit alleges, and then sexually abused her “over her clothing.”

A woman seated by the window next to the girl confirmed she witnessed Durning “quickly move his right hand away.” The woman offered to switch seats with the “shaking” child and advised Durning that he was “scaring her.”

When the girl’s mother looked back at what was happening, she told authorities she saw her daughter mouth, “He touched me,” and approached Durning, whose pants were “unzipped.” A flight attendant then reportedly moved the suspect to a different seat for the remainder of the trip.

On land, the man was met by federal agents. He said he had “one to two beers” before takeoff, and then a glass of wine and Ambien once up in the sky.

“Durning stated that he fell asleep. He stated that the next thing he remembered was someone waking him up and asking him to switch seats,” the affidavit reads.

He was charged with abusive sexual contact of a minor and committing a crime on an aircraft in flight, and must turn over his passport.

In a statement to media, Delta Air Lines said it continues to cooperate with law enforcement: “We have zero tolerance for this type of alleged behavior on our flights and at our airports and the charged individual is no longer welcome to fly Delta.”