NAIROBI, Kenya — A London law firm representing 16 girls in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania said Wednesday it is initiating legal proceedings against British Airways over allegations that one of its pilots sexually abused the girls.

A mother of two girls who were allegedly abused told The Associated Press that during layovers in Kenya, the pilot showered her impoverished children with gifts and took them to the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Nairobi, where he sometimes bathed them.

The 54-year-old British Airways pilot, Simon Wood, committed suicide last year, a coroner told a court hearing Wednesday in Britain. Wood was able to abuse the girls because of his employment with the airline and the company’s community outreach work, said lawyer Nichola Marshall of the firm Leigh Day.

“The schools and orphanages that our clients attended were all in receipt of charitable donations from the airline, and Wood played a key role in administering those donations, on behalf of British Airways,” Marshall said in a statement.

British Airways said it was shocked and horrified by the allegations, which the company said appeared to be related to activities “entirely outside the scope of his employment with British Airways.” The airline extended its sympathies to the victims.

Wood killed himself by standing in front of a train two weeks before he was to appear in court last August. He had faced charges of indecent assault of a girl under the age of 16 and making and possessing child pornography.