Video: Woman abandons baby on plane

updated 3/25/2009 6:33:21 PM ET 2009-03-25T22:33:21

New Zealand police charged a woman with abandonment on Wednesday after she secretly gave birth aboard an international flight and dumped the newborn in a garbage can in the plane's bathroom.

Soon after the 29-year-old Samoan mother walked off a Pacific Blue flight from Samoa to Auckland last Thursday, cleaners found a newborn girl still alive amid bloodied paper towels in a toilet trash can.

Police Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said the woman was charged with child abandonment, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, and child assault.

The mother could also face a fine of up to 100,000 New Zealand dollars ($57,000) and another seven years in prison for allegedly failing to reveal information about her pregnancy, a violation of the country's Immigration Act.

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The mother was reported to be returning to New Zealand to work as a kiwi fruit picker when her daughter was born.

She underwent surgery at an Auckland hospital last Thursday after the birth and was later reunited with her baby. State welfare authorities and other agencies were working to determine what long-term arrangements would be best for the baby, state welfare official Marion Heeney said.

Whether the child would be classified as a New Zealand or Samoan citizen has not yet been determined.

Gutry said the baby was well and had not suffered significant injuries or long-term effects.

"It's not certain when the mother went into labor, and nobody else was aware that she was in labor prior to the flight," he said.

Later Wednesday, a court ordered the woman to be held in police custody. Her name was not released.

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