A passenger dragged from a United Express flight suffered a “significant” concussion and broken nose, and he lost two front teeth, one of his lawyers has said.
Dr David Dao has been discharged from a hospital but he will require reconstructive surgery, said attorney Thomas Demetrio – whose law firm is representing the 69-year-old Kentucky physician. Dr Dao was removed from the plane on Sunday after he refused to give up his seat on the full flight from Chicago to Louisville.
One of Dr Dao’s five children, Crystal Pepper, said the family was “horrified, shocked and sickened” to learn and see what happened. She said seeing her father removed from the Sunday flight was “exacerbated” by the fact it was caught on video and widely distributed.
Mr Demetrio said he likely will file a lawsuit on Dr Dao’s behalf, adding that airlines – and United in particular – have long “bullied” passengers. The video of a passenger being dragged by an officer from a United Express flight shined an unwanted spotlight on the little-known police force that guards Chicago’s two main airports and could threaten the agency’s future.
Chicago’s aviation officers are not part of the regular police force, unlike in many other big cities.
They get less training than regular officers and cannot carry firearms inside the airports.
Three of them were put on leave amid outrage over how they treated the passenger.
Footage of the confrontation “really has put it at risk”, Alderman Chris Taliaferro said on Wednesday, a day before aldermen were scheduled to grill United and the Chicago Aviation Department about why a Kentucky physician was yanked out of his seat after he refused to get off the full jet at O’Hare Airport.
The City Council is looking for answers about the embarrassing video that has been seen around the world.
At the top of the list of questions is whether the airport officers even had the legal authority to board the plane, said Alderman Michael Zalewski, who leads the council’s aviation committee.
“They are allowed in the terminal and baggage area, but my understanding is they may not be allowed on a plane,” he said. Mr Zalewski also said that he is not sure if the officers have the authority to make arrests or if they are authorised only to write tickets.
An Aviation Department spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the duties of the aviation police force, but Mr Zalewski said the agency’s commissioner will be asked that on Thursday.
The department will also be asked about training. Mr Zalewski said airport officers receive four months of training compared with the six months cadets must complete before joining the city’s police department.
“We don’t know what that two-month gap means,” he said, adding that he will ask if the airport officers receive the same kind of training in de-escalating tense situations that city police officers get.