It was worse than when he fled Vietnam.
That’s how an attorney representing the man who was dragged screaming from his seat and off a United Airlines flight said his client described the ordeal to him.
Chicago attorney Thomas Demetrio said David Dao, 69, suffered a serious concussion, a broken nose, the loss of two teeth and other injuries when he was dragged off United Flight 3411 at O’Hare International Airport on Sunday. Demetrio said Dao, who was released from the hospital late Wednesday, will need reconstructive surgery.
Dao is at a “secure location” continuing his recovery and will speak publicly at some point, Demetrio said.
“What happened to my dad should never happen to any human being, under any circumstance,” Dao’s daughter, Crystal Pepper, said at a Thursday news conference with Demetrio.
Pepper, one of five children, said her father is a Vietnamese immigrant.
“I would defy anyone to suggest there was not unreasonable force and violence used to help Dr. Dao disembark that plane,” said Demetrio, who along with Stephen Golan, is representing Dao.
He said Dao told him that being dragged down the aisle of the plane, “was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam,” following the fall of Saigon.
Thursday was the first time Dao’s family has spoken publicly about the incident.
Pepper said her father and mother were flying home to Kentucky from a vacation in California. They landed in Chicago for their connecting flight to Louisville, where both work as doctors. Four of their five children also are physicians, Demetrio said.
Demetrio said no one from United, including chief executive Oscar Munoz, had contacted him or the Dao family. Munoz issued a public apology Wednesday in an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Meanwhile, one of the 70 passengers onboard the flight offered more details about the incident.
John Fuller of Fairfax, Virginia, described a chaotic – and bloody – scene as aviation security officers tried to remove Dao from the plane.
Fuller said a United employee came aboard and said that four people would have to leave the plane. “She was very terse,” Fuller said. “She said ‘Four people need to get off this plane, or we’re not going anywhere.’ “
When no one budged, Fuller said the woman left and returned with a list. She marched down the aisle. First she told a young couple they would have to leave and then a woman. Then she approached Dao, who was sitting in an aisle seat. Dao refused. Fuller said Dao’s wife was not picked to leave.
Security was called and three officers boarded the plane. Millions of people worldwide have seen the video of what followed.
“One person yanked him out of his seat, and then I saw them starting to drag Dao,” Fuller said. A woman ran to the front of the plane shouting, “What are you doing to my husband?”
But it wasn’t over, Fuller said. Dao returned. But now he was bleeding.
“There was blood spurting out of his mouth,” Fuller said. Fuller watched Dao stumble back to his seat.
The security officers returned, but refused to restrain Dao because he was injured and bleeding, Fuller said.
Two paramedics boarded the plane.