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Lawyer says dragged passenger lost teeth, broke nose in struggle

By DON BABWIN and SARA BURNETT Associated Press

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The passenger dragged from a United flight lost two front teeth and suffered a broken nose and a concussion, his lawyer said Thursday, accusing the airline industry of having "bullied" its customers for far too long.

"Are we going to continue to be treated like cattle?" attorney Thomas Demetrio asked.

The passenger, Dr. David Dao, has been released from a hospital but will need reconstructive surgery, Demetrio said at a news conference, appearing alongside one of Dao's children. Dao was not there.

The 69-year-old physician from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was removed by police from the United Express flight Sunday at Chicago's O'Hare Airport after refusing to give up his seat on the full plane to make room for four airline employees.

Cellphone video of him being pulled down the aisle on his back and footage of his bloody face have created a public-relations nightmare for United.

One of Dao's five children, Crystal Pepper, said the family was "horrified, shocked and sickened" by what happened. She said it was made worse by the fact that it was caught on video.

For Dao, who came to the U.S. after fleeing Vietnam by boat in 1975 when Saigon fell, being dragged off the plane "was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam," Demetrio said.

Demetrio, who indicated Dao is going to sue, said the industry has long "bullied" passengers by overbooking flights and then bumping people, and "it took something like this to get a conversation going."

"I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us. Someone's got to."

Early on, United CEO Oscar Munoz added to the furor when he apologized for the incident but accused Dao of being belligerent. Later, Munoz offered a more emphatic mea culpa, saying, "No one should ever be mistreated this way."

He promised to review the airline's policies to make sure something like that never happens again, and said United will no longer use police to remove bumped passengers. The airline also said all passengers on the flight would get a refund. In a statement issued immediately after Thursday's news conference, United insisted that Munoz and the airline called Dao numerous times to apologize. Munoz himself said on Wednesday that he had left a message for Dao.

But Demetrio said neither Dao nor his family had heard from United.

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