L.A. Now

Vietnamese girls who fled tour group at LAX found in Westminster

Two Vietnamese girls who ran away from their tour group at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday have been found in Westminster, officials said Monday.

Los Angeles police detectives investigating the case got a lead late Sunday that Ly Camly Vuong, 12, and Linh Huyen Cao, 17, could be in Orange County, said Cmdr. Bill Collins of the Westminster Police Department.

Detectives asked Westminster police to do a welfare check because one of the girls is younger than 14 and considered an at-risk case, according to airport police Officer Rob Pedregon.

Before dawn Monday, Westminster police found the pair in an apartment near Newland Avenue and Westminster Boulevard, close to Little Saigon, Collins said.

The girls were staying with a family and “weren't stressed, they weren't kidnapped,” he said. “They looked well taken care of and they weren't scared.”

LAPD juvenile detectives picked up the girls about 5 a.m. Monday. LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said that because the girls do not speak English, officers relied on a Vietnamese translator while trying to contact the children's parents and working with staff from the city's Department of Children and Family Services.

“It doesn't appear anybody will be charged with anything,” Smith said, adding that the girls have tourist visas that are effective for several weeks.

Ly and Linh had joined a tour organized by Education First, based in Santa Barbara, which offers a range of learning programs to groom “citizens of the world,” and operates 400 schools and offices in more than 50 countries.

Initially, a four-hour search for the missing pair ended late Sunday after Los Angeles airport police confirmed that the girls' parents knew of their plan to separate from a tourist group visiting from Vietnam.

Still, in Westminster's Little Saigon — the largest cultural district for Vietnamese Americans outside Vietnam — community members buzzed about the latest headline involving people from their homeland, spinning stories about the children’s motives and constantly checking social media with questions about their safety.

“At first, I worried about them because they are so little and here without adults,” said Dan Pham, a student at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

“But we talked about it at home, with everyone sharing stories, and come to find out this happens all the time,” Pham said. “Everyone wants to live in the U.S. because of freedom. I think that’s the reason they took this trip — because they planned to stay.”

“You know, they would have a lot more education possibilities in California or anywhere in this country,” added Mimi Dao, a hairdresser from Anaheim. “So they don’t speak English? That’s the reason you come to America — to learn a new language and new skills. I hope they find a way to stay.” 

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