Crystal Dao Pepper, one of Doctor David Dao’s five children, says her family went through pain and horror at seeing viral videos of the 69-year-old Kentucky physician being dragged off a plane.
“We were completely horrified and shocked at what had happened to my father when we learned of the incident. Seeing it on video made those emotions exacerbated. My dad is healing right now,” Crystal Dao Pepper said in an April 13 news conference, alongside Dao’s attorneys.
“It has been a very difficult time for our entire family, especially my dad, and we are truly grateful for your support,” Crystal, a married mother from the Chicago area, said. “What happened to my dad should never have happened to any human being regardless of the circumstance.”
Her comments represented the first time the family has spoken extensively on the matter since Dao became a focus of national sympathy when security pulled him down an airplane aisle because United needed to get a group of crew members to Louisville. The scene, including Dao’s bleeding face, was captured on viral videos by other passengers.
Dao suffered a significant concussion as a result of being dragged off the plane, and he had a serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses, and he is going to be undergoing shortly reconstructive surgery, Dao’s attorney Thomas Demetrio said at that press conference. “He lost two front teeth, ” the lawyer added in the first detailing of Dao’s injuries.
Crystal said her parents immigrated from Vietnam, and his lawyer said David Dao felt it was “more harrowing” being dragged down the plane aisle than fleeing Vietnam as a refugee. “This was not a troubled passenger. This was not a nut job. This was not a threat to anyone… He’s a 69-year-old man. Is that really the way we want to treat the aged?” asked Demetrio.
Dao is taking legal steps to sue the airline, and Crystal appeared in his stead along with Dao’s high-powered Chicago-based personal injury lawyers, who have made millions suing airlines in other tragedies. Demetrio said the City of Chicago might be responsible for the incident, as well as the airline. Demetrio said Dao could be a “poster boy” for mistreatment of passengers by airlines.
You can watch video of the press conference at 11 a.m. Eastern here. It all adds up to a nightmare for United Airlines, which has earned international outrage and condemnation since the Dao videos hit social media.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Crystal Praised Dao as a ‘Wonderful Father’ & Dao’s Attorney Filed an ‘Emergency Bill of Discovery’
An emotional Crystal had warm words for her father and said the family’s life has been turned upside down as a result of the United situation.
“My dad is a wonderful father. He has raised with my mother five great children. He is a loving grandfather…. our lives have been interrupted. Our normalcy is not where it was on Sunday morning,” Crystal Dao Pepper said. It can’t have been easy for a family to see their father suddenly thrust into the international spotlight that way: One day, he is a doctor living in the Kentucky, and, the next, he is a household name.
Crystal Dao said at the press conference, “on behalf of my dad and my entire family, we would like to express our gratitude for the huge outpouring of prayers, concern and love that we have received from all over the world throughout these few days.” She also thanked the hospital staff “who have taken care of my dad.”
Dao’s lawyer said the airline failed the doctor.
“We owe each other an ordinary care standard,” Demetrio said. Airlines have the “highest” requirement of care for their paying passengers, he said. “That was not done in this case,” Demetrio said, with Crystal sitting next to him. “I would defy anyone” to say there was not unreasonable “force or violence” used to get Dao to disembark the plane, Demetrio said. He said he had received many calls from employees and former employees from United, as well as from other passengers, who are upset about what happened to Dao.
Demetrio has already filed the first legal salvo in the incident on April 12.
The legal document that represents the first public action in the case was filed in Cook County Circuit Court because the incident occurred while the United flight was sitting in Chicago, at O’Hare airport.
The petition says that David A.D. Dao was a passenger on United Express Flight No. 3411, scheduled to fly from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to Louisville, Kentucky.
“After being duly processed by the ticket agent, checked in by the attendant, and seated in his assigned passenger seat, Petitioner was forcibly dragged and removed from the said aircraft by City employees, sustaining personal injury,” the legal filing says.
The respondents were listed as the City of Chicago, which operates the airport, and United Airlines, which operated Flight No. 3411.
The lawsuit is asking in the court order that the following be preserved and protected: All surveillance video recordings depicting the boarding of the plane’s passengers on April 9, 2017, the day in question.
It also seeks preservation of the cockpit voice recording, passenger list, employee and crew list, all incident reports prepared by the respondents, the protocol of United Airlines “in force and effect for the removal of passengers from commercial aircraft” and “the personnel files of the Aviation Department police who removed Petitioner from the plane.”
The petition, which was signed by attorney Thomas A. Demetrio, says the preservation of the items is needed because Dao “currently has no access to them and believes that serious prejudice will inure to the Petitioner if said relief is not granted.”
The attorney for United passenger David Dao is a “high-powered personal injury lawyer” who has been involved in many prominent lawsuits, including those involving airplane crashes, The Chicago Tribune reports.
The other attorneys involved in the petition are Edward G. Willer and Stephen L. Golan. You can read more about Demetrio, who has made millions representing plaintiffs in airline disasters and other personal injury cases, here:
2. Dao’s Daughter Said What Happened to Her Dad ‘Should Have Never Happened’
Crystal Dao said her family wants to make sure that wanted happened to Doctor Dao doesn’t happen to anyone; his lawyer told the media that Dao “just wanted to go home” when the incident occurred. Demetrio implored the news media to leave David Dao alone; Crystal Dao has deleted her social media accounts, and the family hasn’t said much until now in the wake of the frenzy surrounding David Dao’s treatment. Her husband is the vice president of a construction company in Barrington, Illinois, according to his now deleted LinkedIn page.
“It has been a very difficult time for our entire family, especially my dad…what happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being regardless of the circumstance,” Crystal said. “We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened to him. We hope in the future nothing like this happens again.”
United issued a new statement after the press conference. It reads:
We continue to express our sincerest apology to Dr. Dao. We cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right.
This horrible situation has provided a harsh learning experience from which we will take immediate, concrete action. We have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again.
First, we are committing that United will not ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from our flights unless it is a matter of safety and security. Second, we’ve started a thorough review of policies that govern crew movement, incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. Third, we will fully review and improve our training programs to ensure our employees are prepared and empowered to put our customers first. Our values – not just systems – will guide everything we do. We’ll communicate the results of our review and the actions we will take by April 30.
United CEO Oscar Munoz and the company called Dr. Dao on numerous occasions to express our heartfelt and deepest apologies.
Demetrio had said at the press conference that Dao hasn’t spoken with United. The press conference took place at 11 a.m. EST in Chicago. Crystal Pepper was the only member of the family present at it, and she lives in the Chicago area. Her husband was also present, Demetrio said. Dao himself was not at the press conference.
In a previous written statement, Dao’s attorneys said he remained hospitalized for his injuries in Chicago as of April 11. The family is “appreciative” of the support directed their way since the incident occurred April 9, that statement said previously.
According to CNN, three Chicago Department of Aviation officers are on leave, and United’s stock has fallen as the airline struggles to deal with public fallout stemming from the incident. Their identities have not yet been released.
3. Another of Dao’s Children Praised Him as a ‘Productive Citizen’ Who Was a Refugee
It’s not the first time that Dao’s children have expressed praise for him.
One of Dao’s five children with his wife, Teresa, wrote on Instagram, “My parents are immigrants from a communist country and found refuge and support here in the U.S. when to some Vietnamese=Communist (not true!). They have been productive citizens and I am thankful for the life they have provided for me and my brothers and sisters. “ That daughter said that her child “would not be who she is without them. Any refugee should have the same opportunity now regardless of race, gender, religion, etc.”
Teresa was on the plane during the incident.
Other passengers captured what happened to Dao with their cell phones and shared the videos widely on social media. They soon went viral, generating support for Dao and a public relations nightmare for United, which was hammered by Twitter criticism in particular.
The airline initially said its agents “were left with no choice” except to call Chicago Aviation Police to get Dao off of the flight. When they arrived, security officers were unable to get Dao to cooperate with their instructions and physically removed him through the aisle.
In the scuffle, Dao’s face struck an arm rest, and his mouth was bloodied. A short time after that point, officials got him off the plane, he returned to the cabin and ran to the back, holding onto an object and pleading to let him go home. Officials eventually subdued Dao and took him off the flight. The flight was delayed about three hours because of the incident.
Dao supporters are outraged that the airline treated Dao in that manner solely because it needed the seat for crew; Dao was a paying customer who said he was a doctor and had patients he needed to get home to treat.
The incident has thrust Oscar Munoz, United’s CEO, into the spotlight. Munoz had previously indicated that the airline is reaching out to Dao, according to Time Magazine.
Munoz also went on Good Morning America and described feeling “ashamed” after watching the video; according to Time, he “has promised to review the airline’s passenger-removal policy,” apologized to Dao and pledged “This will never happen again on a United flight. That’s my promise.” Police won’t be involved in future removals, and United representatives have been called to address the matter to a Chicago city committee after politicians expressed concern about the incident, Time reported.
Demetrio, the Dao attorney, said at the April 13 press conference, that the case is emblematic of a broader climate of disrespect that airlines show passengers.
“Are we just going to continue to be treated like cattle, bullied, rude treatment?” he said. “We all have enough oh I don’t know angst for flying as it is…but don’t treat the people that helped make you the corporate entity you are like Dr. Dao was treated.”
Watch Crystal Dao’s comments here:
4. The Legal Case Could Revolve Around Dao’s Injuries & His Lawyers Have Earned Millions in Personal Injury Cases
According to Town and Country Magazine, a legal expert in aviation law, Arthur Wolk, said he thinks “Dao could sue for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional disturbance, and may also have grounds to sue under various civil rights acts, in addition to that breach of contract.”
Nothing allows an airline to batter a passenger, he told the magazine, although airlines have the right to remove disruptive passengers. Dao could sue for millions, he said to the magazine.
Dao’s team of lawyers have earned great success in Chicago in personal injury cases. Demetrio has earned millions representing people in airline tragedies, roofing and other disasters. The lawyers are based in the Chicago area. Demetrio made it clear at the press conference that Dao’s injuries will be front and center in the legal case.
“Here’s the law, real simple,” he said. “If you’re going to eject a passenger, under no circumstances can it be done with unreasonable force or violence. That’s the law. If unreasonable force or violence is used… the common carrier, United Airlines, is responsible.”
The video evidence could be crucial in the legal case if the airline tries to claim Dao was unruly.
“Newly released footage appears to contradict United CEO Oscar Munoz’s claim that Dr. David Dao’s belligerence left officers with no choice but to forcibly remove him,” CNN reported.
A couple sitting behind Dao on the United flight recorded video and told CNN that Dao was “not belligerent” when he refused to leave the plane to make way for a flight crew and was only acting “mildly upset,” not raising his voice.
In the 20-second video, Dao says, “I won’t go, I’m a physician, I have to work tomorrow, 8 o’clock.”
The officer continues to ask him to leave the plane, and Dao threatens to “make a lawsuit” against United. Responding officials retort that they would have to drag him out. Dao responds by saying “you can drag me.” He says that he would “rather go to jail” than be forced to leave the plane.
The woman who filed the video posted on Facebook thaat she never once feared for her or her sons’ safety. She added that the airline has promised to refund her family’s plane ticket.
You can watch the new video here:
5. David Dao’s Family Is Full of Physicians & The Internet Created Another Frenzy by Mistaking Another David Dao for the Passenger
Attorney Demetrio said that four of David Dao’s five children are physicians, and his wife is also a doctor. Dao is a practicing doctor in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, which is located 40 miles south of Louisville. According to Daily Mail, the Dao family has five children, four of whom are doctors in different locations around the United States.
Tim, 34, is the oldest child in the family and is a cardiologist in Plano, Texas. The second son, Ben, is 31. Ben is reportedly a medical graduate while their daughter Christine, 33, is a doctor in Durham, North Carolina.
The youngest of the four doctors in the family is Angela, who is 27 and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Kentucky.
The other daughter is Christine’s twin, Crystal. She’s a married mother who lives in Barrington, Illinois. Teresa, Dao’s wife, is a pediatric doctor who graduated from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. She has been in the pediatrics field for over 43 years and has treated patients at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown.
Adding to the intensity of the debate around the case: Social media erupted into a mini frenzy on April 12, with people claiming that the media had mixed up the passenger David Dao with another man with a criminal history. Many people have leapt to Dao’s defense, arguing that the doctor was wrongly treated by both the airline and also the media, for printing details of his past.
People insisted that the Dao who was dragged off the plane was a man with a different middle name than the man with the troubled past; however, the petition filed by Dao’s lawyers makes it clear that his name is David A.D. Dao, which is the doctor with the criminal history, not the man named by many on the Internet.
The Louisville Courier Journal, one of the news sites that was the target of internet scorn from those siding with Dao, wrote an article on April 12 entitled, “Yes, it was Kentucky doctor David Dao who was dragged off that United plane.” The story reports that, among other points of verification, “Kentucky court, property and medical licensure board records of 69-year-old Elizabethtown doctor David Dao match information provided by Chicago authorities, Dao’s attorneys and those who know the Kentucky doctor.” In other words, the media had the right David Dao all along.
A Louisiana doctor named by some on the Internet as the passenger is not the passenger dragged off the Internet flight; he’s significantly younger than the David Dao dragged off the plane, reports the Courier Journal.
You can learn more about Dao’s background here:
Learn more about Dao’s family here: