CHICAGO (CN) – An attorney and family member of the doctor dragged off a United Airlines flight Sunday spoke out for the first time Thursday at a press conference in Chicago, saying he suffered a concussion and plans to sue over the incident that went viral.
Crystal Dao Pepper, 33, one of David A.D. Dao’s five children, said her family was “horrified and shocked and sickened” by what happened to her father.
“We hope this never happens again,” Pepper added.
“I hope he becomes the poster child for all of us,” said one of Dao’s attorneys, Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio P.C. “Someone’s gotta do it.”
Passenger cell phone videos captured what happened April 9 as Dao, 69, was screaming and forcibly removed by Aviation Department police from an airplane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport headed for Louisville, Ky.
His face injured and bleeding, Dao ran back onto the plane, collapsed and was taken out again on a stretcher.
Dao was connecting from a flight from California after a vacation with his wife, who was also on the plane. It is unclear whether she was bumped as well, but she was asked to leave the flight once Dao had been removed.
Three other passengers agreed to be bumped from the overbooked flight to make room for United employees.
Discharged from a Chicago hospital last night, Demetrio said Dao suffered a significant concussion and doesn’t remember getting back onto the plane. He also has a broken nose, injured sinuses and lost his two front teeth.
“For a long time now airlines, United in particular, have bullied us,” Demetrio said of paying passengers. “Rudeness and bullying customers has gone the next step now to physical injury.”
“The whole culture has to change,” Demetrio said, adding that since taking on Dao’s case he has received “hundreds of tales of woe and mistreatment” from other United passengers and employees.
Demetrio and Stephen L. Golan of Golan Christie Taglia LLP filed an emergency bill of discovery in Cook County Circuit Court on Wednesday, asking for the court to order United and the city of Chicago to preserve evidence of the incident.
They want surveillance video of passengers boarding the flight, the cockpit voice recording, passenger and crew lists, incident reports and personnel files for the police involved. Demetrio said a lawsuit will be filed once the attorneys have all of the facts.
United CEO Oscar Munoz told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that he is ashamed of what happened. “That is not who our family at United is,” he said.
After days of social media backlash and calls for boycotts, United is now refunding the tickets for all of the passengers that were on Dao’s flight.
The Chicago Department of Aviation issued a statement that the incident “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure” and has placed three officers who were involved on leave.
Demetrio said he has not heard from either United or the city.
Pepper said her “dad is wonderful father” and “a loving grandfather.”
“At the end of the day that is the person we are trying to protect,” she said.
“He’s the guy to stand up for passengers going forward,” said Demetrio, who hopes to fight the entire practice of airlines overbooking flights. “Are we going to continue to be treated like cattle?”