By Karin Bennett
Security screeners at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport waved all three passengers through with their pet turtle in a carrying case. Gate officials welcomed them on their flight to Milwaukee.
But as the plane pulled away from the gate and then turned back around, AirTran staff told the three young Helm sisters that their beloved turtle pal—a 2-inch baby red-eared slider named after Avatar princess Neytiri—was not allowed to fly in the cabin and that they had to dump her or get off the flight, literally.
Apparently the crew members even refused to watch the tiny animal for a few minutes to allow the girls' father time to dash back to the airport to pick her up. Instead, a staff member allegedly instructed the crying sisters to toss their tiny turtle into a trash can.
The animal was initially presumed dead, but we have since learned that she narrowly escaped being crushed in a trash compactor after an airport employee took it upon herself to pluck the animal out of the trash and take her home. The Helm sisters and Neytiri are being reunited in Milwaukee today.
PETA wants to make sure that this never happens again. We have contacted AirTran CEO Robert Fornaro to ensure that the incident is investigated and that appropriate disciplinary action is taken. Please keep this horrific incident in mind the next time you choose an airline!