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United Airlines passenger dragged off flight suffered concussion, broken nose

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/13/2017 John Bacon
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A daughter of the Kentucky physician at the center of a global uproar over his forced removal from a United Airlines flight said Thursday that the family was "horrified, shocked and sickened" by the incident.

"What happened to my dad should never have happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstances," Crystal Pepper said at a news conference in Chicago. 

David Dao, 69, suffered a concussion, broken nose and damaged sinuses and lost two front teeth when he was dragged off a flight Sunday to make room for United personnel, lawyer Thomas Demetrio said. He said Dao has been released from the hospital and is staying in a "secure" location.

 A lawsuit will be filed at some point, and a hearing on preserving evidence is set for Monday in Chicago, Demetrio said. He also said United and other airlines have "bullied" customers for a long time.

"Dr. Dao, I believe to his great credit, has come to understand that he is the guy, he's the the guy to stand up for passengers going forward," Demetrio said.

Social media outrage rained down on the Chicago-based airline after videos emerged of Sunday night's violent confrontation on United Express Flight 3411 at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, drawing hundreds of millions of views around the world. 

Demetrio called the video "rather disturbing." He said that neither United CEO Oscar Munoz nor other United officials have reached out to Dao. He also said he accepted Munoz's public apology — even though Demetrio called Munoz's appearance Wednesday on Good Morning America "staged."

"I think his PR people said 'We're taking a beating here,'" he said. "I think he was told to get out there."

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After the news conference, United issued a statement saying Munoz and the company had called Dao "on numerous occasions" to apologize.

"We continue to express our sincerest apology to Dr. Dao," the statement said. "We cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right."

United has said that all 70 seats on the Louisville-bound flight were filled when four passengers were told they had to give up their seats to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day. The passengers were selected based on a combination of criteria spelled out in United’s contract of carriage, including frequent-flier status, fare type, check-in time and connecting flight implications, among others, according to United.

Three passengers went quietly. Dao, a father of five who was flying with his wife, balked. Chicago aviation authorities were called and a wild scramble ensued as passengers recorded away. The videos show three security officers speaking to Dao. One of the men grabs him, and he screams as he is yanked out of his seat and pulled down the aisle. Another video shows him bloodied and repeatedly saying, "I have to go home."

"He is a 69-year-old man," Demetrio said. "Is that really how we want to treat the aged?"

Three Chicago Aviation police officers have been placed on leave. The airline offered a string of sometimes awkward apologies and issued a refund for everyone on the flight. That was small change to United — a precipitous drop in stock price cost the company $250 million in value.

Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, watched the news conference and said he agreed with much of what Demetrio had to say. 

"Dao is now the protagonist for people refusing to be bashed in the teeth, horrified and bullied for United's failure to expect the unexpected," Schiffer said. "Dao's attorney is right that fliers deserve fairness, respect and dignity and not to get clobbered." 

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