Airplane Crew Discovers Fetus Abandoned In Airplane's Waste System, Prompting Flight's Cancellation

A flight departing from Durban, South Africa was halted on Friday after flight crew members discovered a fetus had been left in the plane's waste management system.

Flight FA 411 had been scheduled to depart Durban for South Africa's capital city of Johannesburg at 6:15 a.m. local time. The flight was operated by FlySafair, an airliner known for cheap flights in the African nation.

FlySafair initially did not confirm that a fetus had been abandoned on the plane, saying only that the aircraft had been delayed due to a "finding which requires formal investigation from technical teams and police authorities," the company said via a statement on its website.

However, passengers booked on the flight tweeted about the situation, which was later confirmed by authorities called to investigate at the scene.

Kirby Gordon, head of sales and distribution at FlySafair, later told News24 that a fetus had been found on the plane and that police were conducting an investigation. Gordon added that all passengers scheduled for Flight FA 411 had been accommodated by moving to other flights, at no additional expense.

"We will be doing everything in our power to aid authorities in the necessary investigations and thank our loyal customers for their patience with the resultant delay," FlySafair said in its statement.

Airplane bathroom
A general view of the new lavatory onboard the new Qantas A380 flagship the 'Nancy-Bird Walton' as she joins the Qantas fleet at Sydney Domestic Airport on September 21, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. The Qantas A380 will feature seating for 450 passengers across four cabins and will commence commercial services from Melbourne to Los Angeles on October 20, and from Sydney to Los Angeles on October 24. Sergio Dionisio/Getty

While the circumstances regarding the fetus' abandonment are unknown, The South African reports that it could prove difficult for authorities to charge a parent or other individual with a crime.

"Section 113 of the General Law Amendment Act 46 of 1935[15] criminalises concealment of birth. It provides that a person commits this offence if he or she disposes of a body of a newly born child without a lawful burial order, and does so with the intention of concealing its birth," Lorraine du Toit-Prinsloo, a professor at University of Pretoria's Forensic Medicine Department wrote in a study on the country's laws surrounding fetus abandonment and disposal told the newspaper.

"The offence stands regardless of whether the child was born alive or died before, during or after birth. The Act does not define 'child'. However, S v. Molefe[12] provides that 'child' refers to a fetus that has reached at least 28 weeks' gestation. One will therefore not commit this crime if one's conduct involves a fetus of less than 28 weeks' gestation," Du Toit-Prinsloo wrote.

In South Africa, abortion is legal until 13 weeks into a pregnancy, though Metro reports that some medical professionals refuse to perform the procedure as it goes against their religious beliefs, making abortions difficult to obtain in some parts of the country.

Still, South African Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele urged pregnant women who felt they could not care for a child to contact social services rather than abandon a fetus.

"If they have a problem, there are social workers, or they can go to the police, who can advise them where to go. There are social workers who can assist if you think you're not ready for the pregnancy," Mbele said, according to Metro.