The family of a puppy who died after being forced into an overhead bin on a United Airline flight have now spoken about their ordeal.
Catalina Robledo and her 11-year-old daughter Sophia Ceballo had been travelling from Houston to New York with their 10-month-old French bulldog, Kokito.
According to witness statements, a flight attendant ordered the family to place their airline-approved pet carrier inside the overhead, with Kokito inside.
The family heard the dog barking for two hours of the three-and-a-half hour flight. Upon landing, Kokito was found dead.
Kokito was his name…..he's free now…..here's his picture….hugs ❤️ pic.twitter.com/gL3xRn62TL
— DJ Rubiconski (@Rubiconski) March 14, 2018
CBS reports Sophia has now spoken out about her beloved pet:
He was a really special dog. It’s just sad the way he has to, just leave.
Sophia related how the family had protested, but had been ultimately forced to follow the flight attendant’s instructions:
[We said] ‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ He can’t breathe up there.’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, it still goes up there…. She felt the dog and she put him up there.
Sophia also recalled how they wanted to check on Kokito during the flight but were prevented from doing so:
We tried, but there was a lot of turbulence. And we weren’t allowed to stand up.
“Barking just stopped” French Bulldog puppy Kokito is dead tonight after a @united flight attendant placed him in overhead bin on flight from IAH to NYC. Tonight hear from that puppy’s owner in a heartbreaking interview about what happened. Don’t miss it on #KHOU11 at 10. pic.twitter.com/cXh4cZLv8e
— Marcelino Benito (@MarcelinoKHOU) March 14, 2018
After the incident, the flight attendant who made the order stated she did not know the dog was inside the carrier.
However, this contradicts witness statements which claim the family told the flight attendant where Kokito was.
Passenger Maggie Gremminger described over Twitter how she was left heart broken after watching the devastating incident unfold:
I want to help this woman and her daughter. They lost their dog because of a United flight attendant. My heart is broken.
She also tweeted:
It was clearly a dog and while the customer was adamant about leaving it under the seat, the attendant pushed her to do so.
I just flew into LGA and witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a passenger to put her dog bag in the overhead bin. It was clearly a dog and while the customer was adamant about leaving it under the seat, the attendant pushed her to do so. (1)
— MaggieGremminger (@MaggieGrem) March 13, 2018
— MaggieGremminger (@MaggieGrem) March 13, 2018
Another passenger, June Lara, wrote about the incident in upsetting detail over Facebook:
He was meant to grow, learn, cry, play with those young children and be their furry friend.
He was meant to live a long life filling that family’s days with that special joy that only a dog can bring.
I sat behind the family of three and thought myself lucky – who doesn’t when they get to sit near a puppy? However, the flight attendants of flight UA1284 felt that the innocent animal was better off crammed inside the overhead container without air and water.
June described how Catalina had attempted to resuscitate her motionless pet:
They INSISTED that the puppy be locked up for three hours without any kind of airflow. They assured the safety of the family’s pet so wearily, the mother agreed.
I held her baby as the mother attempted to resuscitate their 10 month old puppy. I cried with them three minutes later as she sobbed over his lifeless body. My heart broke with theirs as I realised he was gone…
This little guy fought hard for his life, filling our flight with his cries until he finally ran out of breath.
United Airlines have released the following statement, according to The Points Guy:
This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.
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.
CANNOT believe @united Airlines Crew literally caused the suffocation and death of a puppy on a flight?! By forcing the family to put him in the overhead bin! Are people this ignorant? No proper training? So disappointed and upset. Unacceptable #UnitedAirlines #animalcruelty ?
— Stephanie Carvajal (@steffy2149) March 13, 2018
United Airlines’ policy for onboard pets is as follows, according to their website:
A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel.
The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.
Our thoughts are with Kokito’s family at this difficult time.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.