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Human Interest

Doctor Dragged Off Flight Lost Two Front Teeth, Suffered a Concussion and Needs Facial Reconstruction, Lawyer Says

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  • Dr. David Dao suffered a broken nose, two broken teeth and will undergo reconstructive surgery after altercation aboard United Airlines flight
  • His daughter and lawyer spoke out for the first time since Dao was violently removed from a flight from on Sunday – an incident that became a viral social media sensation
  • Dao’s attorney expects to file a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois
  • United Airlines released a statement following the press conference expressing their sincerest apology and commitment to conduct a thorough review of policies

The doctor who was violently dragged off a United Airlines flight on Sunday – captured in a viral video that sparked widespread outrage – suffered a “significant concussion,” a “serious broken nose,” two broken teeth and an “injury to sinuses,” his lawyer said Thursday.

Dr. David Dao’s daughter and the family’s attorney held a nationally televised press conference where they revealed for the first time the extent of the trauma they say he suffered Sunday after being physically removed from an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville.

Lawyer Thomas A. Demetrio also confirmed that Dao must undergo reconstructive surgery. He was discharged from the hospital late Wednesday.

“I would defy anyone to suggest that there was not unreasonable force and violence used to help Dr. Dao disembark that plane,” said Demetrio, who added that Dao is in a secure, secret location as he heals both emotionally and physically.”

Demetrio says he is working with Dao to file a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois and does not expect it to be a class action lawsuit.

“When our investigative work is done, we will file suit,” says Demetrio. “I don’t have a clue when that will be. We have two years, but I promise it wont be that long.”

Dao’s daughter, Crystal Pepper, who also appeared at the press conference, said that her father is “healing right now” and thanked well-wishers for their outpouring of support and prayers.

“What happened to my dad should never have happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstances,” she said. “We were horrified and shocked and sickened to see what had happened to him.”

Following the press conference, United Airlines released a statement expressing their “sincerest apology to Dr. Dao.”

“We cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right,” the statement read. “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 said that Dao, who immigrated from Vietnam in 1975 after “Saigon fell,” was more “terrified” during his altercation on United than he was of leaving Saigon.

“He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam,” says Demetrio.

Dr. David Dao’s daughter, Crystal Pepper

When questions about Dao’s professional life were brought up at the conference by reporters (his medical license permits him to practice internal medicine at an outpatient facility once a week, according to documents obtained by PEOPLE), Demetrio responded: “We’re going to keep his professional life… it’s not the purpose of this conference today. No I wont elaborate on his professional practice as it exists today.”

Pepper added, “My dad is a wonderful father. He has raised with my mother five children who have gone on to do great things. He is a loving grandfather. And at the end of the day, that is the person who we are trying to protect and take care of.”

WATCH: ‘I Am Not Going!” New Footage Shows United Airlines Passenger and Police Arguing Before He’s Dragged Off Plane

Through his attorneys, Dao has already filed paperwork saying he “believes it is crucial and essential” to preserve all surveillance videos, cockpit voice recordings, a full passenger list and any incident reports from the altercation.

The doctor also wants the court to order United and the city of Chicago — which operates O’Hare — to preserve a full employee and crew list for United Express Flight No. 3411 on that date; descriptions of “the protocol of United Airlines in force and effect for the removal of passengers from commercial aircraft”; and the personnel files of the city’s aviation department police “who removed (Dao) from the plane,” according to the document.

Attorneys for United and the city did not immediately respond in court to Dao’s filing. A United spokeswoman tells PEOPLE, “We cannot comment on pending litigation” and pointed to a Tuesday statement from CEO Oscar Munoz in which he said, in part, “No one should ever be mistreated this way. … We take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.”