A mother seated in the row behind the doctor who was forcibly removed from Sunday’s United Airlines flight 3411 says the man’s wife was “visibly shaken” by the violent ordeal.
Joya Griffin Cummings watched as the passenger, identified as Dr. David Dao, was dragged off the plane by officials, his face hitting an armrest on the way. His wife, Dr. Teresa Dao, was sitting a row back and across the aisle, according to Griffin Cummings. She followed her husband off the plane, but came back to grab their carry-on luggage — “not crying, but definitely shook up.”
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m so sorry you had to see your husband go through that,’ ” Joya Griffin Cummings, who also took video footage of Dr. David Dao interacting with officials in the moments before he was violently dragged, tells PEOPLE. “I thought, ‘I can’t imagine how horrific it must have been to witness your loved one go through that.’ ”
Griffin Cummings, who was returning from a family vacation in Misawa, Japan, with her husband Forrest and 2-year-old son Caden, says the whole situation felt “very unfair, very unjust” and she became fearful for her family’s safety when the altercation turned violent.
“I was like, ‘Uh oh, this is not great,’ ” says Griffin Cummings, 37. “It made me more anxious. The space is so small and we didn’t know if they had weapons or what.”
David and Teresa, both doctors in Kentucky, were among the paid passengers on the flight who were offered up to $800 from United to give up their seats to airline employees who needed to board.
Griffin Cummings says David and Teresa initially agreed to volunteer and they deplaned together. But the couple came back and returned to their seats “quickly.”
When David was later chosen at random to leave the plane involuntarily, video footage shows him saying: “I won’t go, I’m a physician I have to work tomorrow, 8 o’clock.”
In later clips he is seen bleeding from the mouth after officers with the Chicago Department of Aviation dragged him down the aisle of the airplane.
Griffin Cummings, who was eventually allowed to re-board the plane with her family after all passengers were asked to exit the aircraft following the incident, said she was contacted by United about 48 hours later with an apology.
“I got a phone call from them offering a refund and their apology,” says Griffin Cummings, who posted a transcript of the voicemail to her Facebook page. “I haven’t called them back. It’s not a big enough apology.
“I hope they don’t think it would appease the passengers on the flight.”
She also says the majority of passengers were “in shock” after witnessing David being dragged off the plane — and equally as shocked by the United crew’s immediate response.
“The pilot said, ‘Sorry for the delay and sorry you had to see that,’ ” she says. “That was the gist of the apology — ‘We’re sorry you all had to see that.’ Not, ‘We’re sorry we did this.’ ”
David appears to be laying the groundwork for a lawsuit, according to a court document obtained by PEOPLE.
Through his attorneys, the doctor filed paperwork on Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois 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.
In addition, Dao wants the court to order United Airlines 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.
No suit has been filed.
Attorneys for United and the city of Chicago 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.”
Representatives with the city of Chicago could not immediately be reached.