ARLINGTON, Va. - A 12-year-old girl from China who whose disappearance from Reagan National Airport sparked an Amber Alert on Thursday was found safe in New York on Friday, according to officials.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police said the girl, identified as JinJing Ma, was found safe in Queens and is in the custody of her parents.
Authorities say the girl was in the United States as part of a tour group when she left the airport with an unknown woman at about 8:15 a.m.
Investigators say the tour group was checking into the airport when the disappearance occurred. They say after the girl received her passport, she went to use the restroom, but instead met up with the female suspect who assisted in helping her change her clothes. Afterward, officers say they walked together to the arrivals area before leaving the airport.
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Chief David Huchler said when the girl and the woman were leaving the airport, they were seen getting into a white 2016 or 2018 Infiniti QX70 with New York tags.
Before the female suspect made contact with the 12-year-old girl, the woman was seen with an Asian man arriving at the airport on the ticketing/departures level walking south toward Door 6. It is believed another man was driving the Infiniti SUV.
The lawyer representing the family of the 12-year-old girl confirmed that it was her parents who picked her up from Reagan National Airport and took her to New York.
Ma even made contact with her parents during the tour group's stop in New York City at the World Trade Center prior to them picking her up at the D.C. area airport.
The family's lawyer fielded questions about why Ma's parents didn't alert anyone that they were taking their daughter.
"We don't really know at this point what really happened and whether the tour group had been alerted or how exactly things transpired," explained Anna Demidchik with the Demidchik Law Firm. "They called my law firm [Thursday] night when they realized there was an Amber Alert and a lot of commotion over their daughter. And I think a large part of this is a misunderstanding."
Demidchik added the girl's parents have lived in the U.S. for the last two years and they have not been able to see their daughter during that time. It is still unclear why the girl and her parents were separated and if anyone will face any charges.
According to police, the Chinese student tour group was visiting the U.S. looking at schools along with sightseeing. The group has been in the U.S. since July 26 and arrived at Reagan National Airport from New York City. The group was expected to travel out to the West Coast before eventually heading back to China.