Norfolk 12 prepare for flight home row Britons set for take-off

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The Independent Online
THE NORFOLK 12, the party of boisterous holidaymakers thrown off a holiday flight to Jamaica and dumped at Norfolk airport in Virginia, seemed to be on the last stage of their aborted journey last night.

As they headed into their third day of enforced exile, some were preparing to board a flight that would bring them back to London this morning.

Bedraggled, subdued and definitely sobered up, the holidaymakers - who say they were innocent victims of an onboard row - were furious with the British Embassy and Airtours International, their tour company, which refused to fly them back or provide any assistance.

The tour company reiterated that there had been a fight on the Boeing 767 taking them to Montego Bay and said it had no responsibility.

Some of them still in their holiday finery, some wearing "I love Virginia" T-shirts, they sat huddled in the smoking lounge waiting for their departure.

Outside, it was not the sun-drenched beaches of Montego Bay which awaited them, but the dripping grey skies of a Virginia winter's day. Back in England, a welcome party of the police and the media was also ready.

Angela Driscoll, 20, said she had been asleep when the incident took place which brought her holiday to an end in America's equivalent of Portsmouth. "Five or six of us were asleep," she said, "and some of us had had a few drinks. They were singing, but low."

She said one of the party, Miles Connor, went to the toilet, where a man told him to "shut your women up".

"Miles said, `There's no need to be aggressive. They're only enjoying themselves', and the man threw a glass of beer at him," she said.

She said another member of the party got up "to calm the situation down" and the other man, she says, threatened them with violence when they arrived in Jamaica. "There was no punches, no fighting, just a little bit of a dispute."

That little bit of a dispute led to interviews with the FBI and the airport police. No charges were brought, but the Norfolk 12 are stranded in Virginia. They were put up at the local Hilton for the night - courtesy of GMTV, says Ms Driscoll - and fed by the airport authorities. They subsisted on loans from the press corps and the kindness of the American people.

The party was trying to negotiate a flight back to Britain, but with fares of about pounds 1,200, they were "a few hundred short". It was not clear if all would return last night, or whether some have to stay on.