A Nigerian man on an Emirates flight to Chicago says the flight crew punched him, and then bound him and taped his mouth shut for eight hours on his trip to reunite with his family.
David Ukesone, 71, who says he hadn’t been on a plane in over 35 years, got into a dispute with attendants over his seat, and things quickly escalated.
‘He apparently sits in the wrong seat and was told to change seats by a flight attendant,’ attorney Howard Schaffner told ABC News. ‘He didn’t think he was in the wrong seat and there was an argument and, at some point, he was hit.’
David Ukesone, 71, alleges he was punched, bound and his mouth was taped shut on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Chicago on January 23 after an argument over his seat
The Nigerian man was reuniting with his family, including his wife and two adult children who had already immigrated to the US from Nigeria, pictured in the hospital after the flight
A lawyer for Ukesone claims he suffered lacerations from being tied up for eight hours
According to Emirates Airlines, in a statement released Monday, they confirmed the incident.
‘Emirates can confirm that a passenger on flight EK235 from Dubai to Chicago on 23 January had to be restrained by cabin crew due to unruly behavior during the flight. The passenger was handed over to the authorities on arrival in Chicago. The safety of our passengers and crew is of the utmost importance and will not be compromised. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the other passengers on the flight for their understanding, in particular the individuals who had assisted our crew during the flight.’
However, his lawyer said, he had no issue traveling from Nigeria to Dubai until he began the second leg of his trip.
Ukesone boarded the flight after his layover in Dubai with the boarding pass assigning him to seat 35D. He was joining his wife who immigrated four months earlier.
His adult son and daughter had also immigrated to the US.
The incident unfolded after Ukesone went to the bathroom and got in the wrong seat after he returned.
His attorney says he sat ‘very close’ to 35D.
Ukseone understands English, but not perfectly. When the argument ensued between himself and the flight crew, his lawyer says, he was very confused.
‘He was asked to move and he wants to take his bag in the overhead compartment with him,’ the attorney said.
‘They told him he was in the wrong seat and they laid hands on him to move him and that’s when everything escalated,’ Schaffner said.
The argument continued to escalate and the flight crew allegedly struck him ‘at least once’ and left a ‘large welt on his face,’ according to his lawyer.
Ukesone claims while he was tied up he was not giving food or water the entire remainder of the flight while his mouth was taped shut
His attorney says he remained in the hospital for several days and that he was disoriented after his release from University of Chicago Medical Center
Ukseson says the Emirates flight crew struck him at least once on the flight which left a welt on his face
‘He also has significant wounds on his wrists and ankles’ Schaffner added, that he was allegedly restrained with rope.
He also claims he was left alone for the remaining eight hours of the flight and was not given food or water.
His attorney alleges his mouth remained taped shut the entire time.
To make matters worse, Schaffner says, when his family arrived to pick him up from the airport, they waited at the terminal for hours but Ukesone didn’t show.
Ukesone’s son ‘starts starts to check and asks people about his dad,’ Schaffner said.
He was finally told their dad was pulled off the plane and admitted to the hospital.
Ukesone allegedly remained in the University of Chicago Medical Center for several days and was treated for lacerations and bruising, according to his attorney.
He also was not drunk and does not have a history of mental illness according to Schaffner who adds he was disoriented after being released from the hospital.
One of the family’s attorneys held a press conference about what they say Ukesone endured
Emirates Airline confirmed a passenger was restrained during the flight for safety
‘The man did nothing more than sit in the wrong seat,’ his attorney said. ‘Even if he’s in the wrong seat you don’t have to beat the guy.’
Additionally, his attorney says Ukesone has not been charged with any crime.
According to ABC News the Chicago Police Department said that a passenger on an Emirates flight was removed from the plane by US Customs and Border Patrol, but there have been no reports filed against him that he is aware of.
His lawyer said they are planning legal action.
‘There’s no question we’re going to file a lawsuit,’ Schaffner said, adding that he hopes other passengers come forward that witnessed what happened with Ukesone that day.
‘Everybody needs to step back for a second and take a deep breath,’ Schaffner said. ‘He hasn’t flown in a long time and he’s clearly from another country … he just made an honest mistake of sitting in the wrong seat and people have to be trained to deal with things like that, without escalating them into something crazy.’