NEW YORK - The family whose dog died after being put in an overhead bin on a United Airlines flight is speaking out.
On Sunday, Sophia Ceballos, her two-month-old little brother and their mother, Catalina Robledo, were flying to New York with their 10-month-old French bulldog, Kokito. The dog was a birthday present to Sophia. ABC News reported that the group was travelling from Houston, where Robledo’s husband is working.
According to social media posts from June Lara and Maggie Gremminger, two passengers on the flight, a United Airlines flight attendant insisted to the family that Kokito needed to be stored in the overhead bin of the plane.
Sophia and her mother appeared on morning TV programs to speak out about the incident.
“The flight attendant came, and she was like, ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path,’’ said Sophia, speaking on behalf of her mother, who isn't fluent in English. “And we were like, ‘It’s a dog, it's a dog.’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, you still have to put it up there.’”
According to ABC News, the family told the flight attendant twice that a dog was in the bag before being told to put the dog in the overhead compartment. Turbulence prevented the family from checking on the dog, ABC News reported.
“There were two people behind us who said they had the same dog, and they were like, ‘You shouldn’t do this ... it's not common to do this,’” Sophia said.
According to Sophia, her mother asked if she could carry Kokito in her lap, but was told no. The dog softly barked for part of the flight before going silent.
WNBC reported that the family went through the right channels to bring Kokito on board. They paid $200 to bring the dog on and were able to fit the bag under their seat on their outbound flight.
One passenger told ABC News the flight attendant didn’t know there was a dog in the bag. When she found out, the passenger said the attendant “seemed frazzled and shocked.”
“She said that she did not know there was a dog in the bag, and if so she never would have instructed it to be put in the bin above,” the passenger said.
United Airlines issued a statement confirming the incident Tuesday, saying it would “assume full responsibility.”
“She took him out, and he was dead,” Sophia said. “She’s like, ‘He died, died!’ And he didn't wake up ... she hit his chest so he could breathe, but he wouldn’t move.”
United refunded the fee the family paid to bring Kokito and the airline tickets, according to WNBC. It said it is investigating the flight and speaking to the flight attendant.
“I just really miss him,” Sophia said. “He was a member of our family. He was like my brother to me.”
“We don’t want the same thing to happen (to other pet owners),” Sophia told WNBC. “If flight attendants tell you to put your pet (in an overhead compartment), don't do it.”
“This was a tragic accident that should have never occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”
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