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Attorneys For United Airlines Passenger Speak Out On Incident

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's the viral video seen around the world this week - aviation officers dragging a passenger off of a United Airlines flight. United continues to apologize for the incident. It's become a PR nightmare for the company. The passenger, David Dao, has stayed silent. His family and attorney spoke out for the first time today. From member station WBEZ in Chicago, Susie An reports.

SUSIA AN, BYLINE: Crystal Dao Pepper describes her father, Dr. David Dao, as a loving grandfather. Pepper, who lives in Chicago, says the entire family has been deeply affected by the incident that occurred last Sunday night.

CRYSTAL DAO PEPPER: Our lives have been interrupted, and our normalcy is not where it was on Sunday morning.

AN: Dao and his wife were flying back from vacation in California on Sunday, catching a connecting flight from Chicago to Louisville. That flight was overbooked. After all ticketed passengers were boarded, the airline offered vouchers to four passengers to give up their seats. When that didn't happen, passengers were selected at random, which led to Dao being forced off the plane by aviation officers.

Attorney Tom Demetrio says the incident left Dao with a concussion, missing teeth and a broken nose that will need reconstructive surgery. He says Dao, who is originally from Vietnam, compares the experience to escaping from his country decades ago by boat.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM DEMETRIO: He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam.

AN: Demetrio has filed court papers to ensure United preserve any evidence for a probable lawsuit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEMETRIO: Dr. Dao to I believe his great credit has come to understand that he's the guy. He's the guy to stand up for passengers going forward.

AN: Demetrio blames United Airlines and the local aviation officers who he accuses of abusing their power. And this afternoon, officials from the city's Department of Aviation testified at city hall about the officers' actions. United Airlines and the department gave limited testimony because of possible litigation, but both are launching separate reviews.

In its latest statement, United again apologizes and says it's committed to making the situation right. As for Dao, he was released from the hospital yesterday and will soon return to his home in Kentucky but not by plane. For NPR News, I'm Susie An in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.