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Victoria Kong, Missing From Reagan National Airport, Found Dead Near Gravelly Point

10:32 PM, May 6, 2013   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9) -- U.S. Park Police confirm the body found near Gravelly Point on Monday is that of 83-year-old Victoria Kong, who may have had dementia.

The body was found south of Gravelly Point off the George Washington Parkway approximately 30 feet from the bike trail in a wooded area, U.S. Park Police spokesperson Sgt. Paul Brooks said. 

Kong was last seen near the airport, walking north on the Mount Vernon trail toward Gravelly Point at about 6:30 p.m. on Friday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Dept. said in a press release.

U.S. Park Police and MWAA Police used police dogs to search for Kong between Roosevelt Island and the Pentagon Monday morning.

American Airlines commented that they "understand that on-board assistance was not requested for deplaning" of Victoria Kong. 

The family of Kong disagrees with that statement and insists that they did ask for assistance.  Kong's grandaughers Kalisse and Alexandria Anderson say they told an American Airlines representative that she needed to be escorted because she "didn't know where she was going."    

The Andersons say that their grandmother did receive that assistance on her layover in Miami.  They say an escort picked her up in a wheelchair, took her through Customs and got her on her next plane.   

The Andersons say they have since been told that at National Airport, her escort was waiting with a wheelchair and a digital sign.  Unfortunately, they say, Kong would not have noticed a digital sign.  The elderly women kept walking straight out of the airport.  The Andersons says the police have pictures of Kong sitting on a bench right outside of the baggage area where the family was waiting. 

The family also accuses American Airlines of waisting crucial time in the minutes after Kong disappeared.  The family says it took American 90 minutes to two hours before they admitted they didn't know where Kong was and a search began.

American Airlines released the following statement Monday evening after learning of Kong's death:

We are deeply saddened to learn of Ms. Kong's death and our thoughts are with her family. We will continue to offer our cooperation to authorities.

At American, the well-being and safety of our customers is our top priority, which is why we have services available for customers requiring mobility assistance. When customers book tickets and request special assistance, our team of specialists trained in compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act proactively reach out to our customers to understand what type of assistance may be required. In this case, American was asked to provide mobility assistance, but we received no indication that Ms. Kong suffered from any form of cognitive disability. If we learn that a customer has a cognitive disability, our agents are trained to advise that we do not provide supervision of passengers and a companion is necessary to ensure safe travel.

The Alzheimer's Association lists these tips for airplane travel with people with dementia:

• Call the airline's customer service office prior to travel to find out how the airline handles situations that may arise when traveling with a person with dementia.
• Keep your travel plans simple with as few layovers and flight changes as possible.
• Have the person wear an ID bracelet at all times.
• Register the person with dementia with the Medic Alert + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return program.
• If the person is already registered in the program, notify Safe Return of your travel plans.
• Inside the person's purse or pocket, place a card with the name of the hotel or person you'll be visiting.
• Carry documents from the person with dementia's physician that indicate the individual's condition.
• In your carry-on luggage, be sure to have medications, insurance cards, physicans' names and phone numbers, your identification and the person with dementia's identification, including photo.

For more information call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 or visit our online Safety Center at www.alz.org/safety.

The family of Victoria Kong said in a statement that they "suffered an overwhelming and personal loss of a very dear woman, mother, grandmother and neighbor." They thanked everyone who "took the time to pray or offer words of encouragement ni our great hour of need." 

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