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Shelby woman on United flight says incident was avoidable

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Situation should have never escalated to violence, she says

By Ashley Sutter

Thanks to the power of social media and smart phones, news has quickly spanned the globe regarding a passenger that was forcibly and violently removed from a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday for refusing to voluntarily give up his seat. 

If you’ve seen the disturbing footage, you’ve likely heard the screams of David Dao as officers yanked him from his seat, followed by the cries of another passenger, Mary Myers, in his defense. 

The cell phone footage then shows an incoherent and bloodied Dao being drug down the isle as Myers looks on in horror and pleas for compassion. “No, this is wrong.  Oh my God, look at what you are doing to him,” she shouted.

Myers, a Shelbyville resident who works at Associates In Pediatric Therapy, said she was absolutely horrified at what she witnessed Sunday.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said. “I mean they smashed his face into the armrest.  And when he was dragged by me he looked like he had been knocked out, and he was bleeding.”

Shortly after footage of the violent scene made its way across the internet, an e-mail from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz leaked.  The email expressed that while he was upset to see what happened aboard United Express Flight 3411, he commended employees for following procedure.

While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right,” he wrote.

Myers, who was returning to Kentucky after visiting her daughter at college in Oklahoma, said the situation started at the gate.

“We were waiting and they said the flight was oversold and they needed one volunteer,” she said, noting they offered a $400 voucher and a hotel stay to a volunteer willing to give up their seat.  Myers said she assumes someone volunteered because they were soon allowed to board.

However, shortly after everyone took their seats, another crewmember asked for four more seats due to the apparent overbooking situation. 

United spokesman Jonathan Guerin has since said the flight was sold out — but not oversold. They determined it necessary to remove four passengers from the flight to accommodate other crewmembers.

“They needed to make room for a standby crew, a crew of pilots,” Myers explained, noting when no one accepted an $800 offer and hotel stay, a supervisor informed them that passengers would be selected to give up their seats at random.

“She came back on [the plane] shortly thereafter with four tickets in her hand and she selected a couple... a few seats in front of me and they got off the plane and when she got to this gentlemen, he asked, ‘Why have you chosen me? Why have you selected me?’”

She said Dao pleaded with the supervisor not to remove him from the flight and explained that as a doctor he could not miss his return flight home.

“He said, ‘I can’t get off the plane. I have to get home.  I’m a doctor. I have to get to the hospital in the morning.’”

Myers said the supervisor’s response was not appropriate.

“She said, ‘Well, then I’ll just have to call the police and have you escorted off the plane.’  In my opinion, I think any good supervisor would never have let the situation escalate to that point.  Honestly, I think I blame her for the whole entire occurrence.

“I really put all of this on her shoulders. She could have made a difference. She could have handled it differently. She’s the one who started it all.

“From the very beginning she could have approached it differently,” she said, noting the lady lied about the overbooking situation and never considered offering more money to encourage volunteers.

Instead, the supervisor mad a bad situation worse. Myers said Dao was understandably frustrated and used a stern tone to inform them that he refused to give up his seat.

“Well, when you’ve got someone who is angry and upset and your job is to be in customer service, what is your number one job then? To deescalate the situation,” Myers said, noting however that the apparently frustrated and annoyed supervisor informed Dao that she would get the police involved.

“She didn’t need to jump to that level,” Myers said.

Soon after two officers and a man boarded the plane to speak with Dao followed by a third gentlemen with only a lanyard and tag for identification who began yelling at Dao.

“He went to the man and yelled at him and said, ‘Hey’ in a really stern voice and moments later that’s when he reached down and grabbed him and yanked him out of his seat.”

Myers said she could not believe a company would mistreat an innocent passenger in such a manner.

“I’m still in disbelief that something like that could actually happen to someone who was posing no threat to anyone on that plane,” she said. “It makes me really sad to see that that is what our world has come to – that people feel if you wont do what they want you to do you have the right to use brute force.”

Dao, who is 69-years-old and of fairly small stature, Myers said, was up against three men.

“The guy who dragged him off the plane was probably well over six-foot, probably a good ten years younger than him and certainly strong.  They didn’t need to use that kind of force on him,” she said.

Myers, who works as a medical assistant at a small physician’s clinic on Mondays, said she would have given up her seat, but like Dao, had patients counting on her to be at work the next morning.

“So if I had to give up my seat, I would have had to cancel all of our patients for the following day and I couldn’t do that. It was just myself and the doctor that day,” she said.  “If I did have coverage I would have absolutely given my seat up.”

Instead, a horrified Myers watched on, feeling helpless.

“I wanted to help that man but honestly I was afraid.”

Shortly thereafter, Dao, whom Myers described as perfectly normal before the incident, returned to the plane and attempted to reclaim his seat.

“But he seemed to be clearly disoriented... after the whole incident occurred and he was bleeding profusely from his mouth” Myers said, noting it was only at that point that paramedics were called and Dao was taken to the hospital.

Myers said she would never take a United flight again.

“I would encourage anybody, if you’re thinking of flying, consider a different airline, even if it means you have to pay a little more or have a longer layover,” she said.  “Organizations that treat their customers that way, that lie about oversold flights, that take three days to come out and make a proper apology, they don’t deserve our business.”

Myers said the scene was extremely disturbing.

“It just really upset me,” she said. “There were small children on that plane... they should never have witnessed that.”