United Airlines passengers describe scene as man dragged off flight

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United Airlines passengers describe scene as man dragged off flight

Passengers who watched as Chicago Department of Aviation security officers boarded a United flight and dragged a man away from the plane are speaking up about what they saw.

“None of us believed that it could get to that point of violence,” said John Klaassen, an instructor at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. “When the police came on, they were just determined to take him off of the plane. There was no negotiating.”

Passengers watched and filmed as officers pulled a man from his seat on Kentucky-bound United Airlines Flight 3411 on Sunday and dragged him up the aisle toward the plane’s door as others shouted in protest. He continued to resist and ran back onto the plane with a bloody face.

The Courier-Journal identified the passenger as David Dao, a doctor from Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

“He hit his face when they initially dragged him off, as you guys saw,” passenger Jayse Anspach told CNN. “It was 10 minutes later, he comes running back in and runs to the back, his face bloody, and just clings on to the post in back and just saying, ‘I got to go home, I need to go home, I need to go home.”

According to Anspach, Dao and his wife initially volunteered to deplane when United asked for volunteers, but when they found out the next flight wasn’t until the next day, Dao said he couldn’t take the later flight because of work obligations. Anspach said Dao’s initial willingness to volunteer may have been a reason Dao was ultimately selected to deplane.

In a video uploaded to Twitter by Anspach, a passenger can be heard saying, “What are you doing? This is wrong. Oh, my God, look at what you did to him.”

The incident began when United officials asked for four volunteers to give up their seats to allow four crew members to travel to work another flight in Louisville. No one volunteered, and the airline acknowledged an “involuntary de-boarding situation,” according to a United statement.

“We have United employees that need to fly to Louisville tonight … This flight’s not leaving until four people get off,” passenger Tyler Bridges said an airline supervisor told passengers.

Bridges said Dao believed he was selected because he was Asian.

“Once they dragged the guy off, the United employees (came) on the plane (to take the seats,)” said Bridges. “The other passengers were just berating the employees, saying things like, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself. You should be embarrassed to work for this company.’”

Bridges said it was “really intense, really uncomfortable.” He also said children on the plane were very upset with the whole situation. 

An internal email from United CEO Oscar Munoz circulated to employees said he “emphatically” stands behind them, that the man who was removed from the flight was “disruptive and belligerent” and that United would be conducting a detailed review of what happened.

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report.

United Airlines planes sit on an airport tarmac Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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