United passenger David Dao breaks silence, saying he’s still in the hospital and ‘everything’ is injured

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 2:33pm

David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky doctor who touched off a global debate over airline overbooking policies this week when he was dragged off a United Airlines flight, was still recovering in the hospital Tuesday after suffering injuries from the incident, according to a Kentucky television station that spoke to him.

Dao broke his silence to tell WLKY-TV that he was not doing well and that he was still in a hospital in Chicago. When asked what his injuries were, he said “everything ”, the station reported.

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On Sunday, Dao had boarded a United flight from Chicago to Louisville that the airline had overbooked. When flight staff randomly chose four passengers to get off the plane to make room for airline employees who wanted seats, Dao refused.

An attorney for Dao’s family also said he is still getting treated for his injuries.

“The family of Dr Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received,” said Chicago attorney Stephen Golan.

The family would not be commenting further, Golan added.

The airline summoned airport security officers, who dragged a shrieking Dao out of his seat and off the plane. Footage of the incident, taken by passengers, many of whom were distraught over Dao’s treatment, later showed Dao with a bloody face after he dashed back aboard.

The incident has sparked criticism of United Airlines’ handling of the incident. United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz initially said Dao, whom the airline did not publicly identify, was “disruptive and belligerent” when airline employees told him he would have to relinquish his seat because the flight was overbooked.

But as criticism mounted on Tuesday, Munoz issued another statement saying Dao had been “mistreated” and added, “I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.”

According to records from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Dao went to medical school at the University of Medicine of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, graduating in 1974. He was licensed in Kentucky with a specialty in pulmonary disease.

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He has been involved in legal troubles that started in 2003, when his medical licence was suspended after an undercover sting operation at a Louisville motel, for allegedly writing fraudulent prescriptions. Dao was ultimately convicted in late 2004 of several counts of obtaining drugs by fraud or deceit and was placed on five years of supervised probation and surrendered his medical license in 2005.

But he applied for reinstatement and his long-time effort to get his license back finally succeeded in 2015, when the licensing board allowed him to practise medicine again. He told regulators it was a matter of “family honour”.

In a 2014 letter, his attorney described Dao as “a grandfather, an active participant in his local church” who supports an organisation that helps the homeless in his community, Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

About a year after his medical licence was suspended, Dao joined the professional poker circuit, according to his World Series of Poker profile . His biggest competitive win came in 2009 when he took home more than US$117,000 from a tournament in Mississippi.

The Chicago Department of Aviation suspended a security officer involved in Sunday’s incident, the handling of which “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure,” the department said in a statement.

The department did not respond to requests for the officer’s name and service history.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Associated Press