The seven-year-old daughter of the woman whose French bulldog died after being forced into an overhead bin by a United Airlines flight attendant is speaking out, saying the United employee lied about what happened during the tragic flight.
“While we were flying, the dog started barking and barking and there was no flight attendants coming. We couldn't stand up because there was a lot of turbulence so we weren't allowed to," Sophia Ceballos, speaking on behalf of her mother, Catalina Robledo, told ABC 13.
Ceballos said that attempts to inform the flight attendant of the severity of the situation during the four-hour flight from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to New York’s LaGuardia Airport were unsuccessful.
“She said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.' But we told her it was a dog, she's lying,” the teary-eyed girl says in video footage obtained by the outlet.
Despite bringing their pet aboard the aircraft in a TSA-compliant pet carrier that Robledo should have been able to keep underneath the seat in front of her, as per United's pet policy, a yet-unidentified United flight attendant allegedly forced the New York family to store Kokito in his carrier in an overhead bin for the duration of the flight.
"She's like, 'He died, he died. Kokito, Kokito.' And he didn't wake up. She hit his chest so he could breathe, but he couldn't breathe," Ceballos said of her mother’s forlorn reaction to realizing the dog had died, after landing.
Though United has since claimed full responsibility for the “tragic accident” and has offered the family compensation, Robledo says the situation is not about money, ABC reported.
Passenger Maggie Gremminger told The New York Times that Robledo was insistent that the dog carrier should stay by her side, to no avail.
“The pet owner was very adamant that she did not want to put the pet carrier up above,” Gremminger said. “She was saying verbally, ‘My dog is in here, no, this is my dog.’ The flight attendant, in response, really just continued to ask her to put it above because it was a hazard where it was, it was a safety emergency, someone could trip.”
Gremminger said that she and her fellow travelers were horrified to learn the animal had died later in the trip, according to People.
“A stranger offered to hold her newborn while she sat on the floor, there in the airplane aisle. She was holding her dog and rocking back and forth. Her daughter was also crying,” she told the publication about the scene following the discovery.
Gremminger further divulged that once Kokito was found dead, the flight attendant became "frazzled" and insisted she did not know there was a live animal in the carrier.
“I want to help this woman and her daughter. They lost their dog because of an @united flight attendant. My heart is broken,” she wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo of the family.
"She said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was a dog. I thought it was a normal bag.' But we told her it was a dog, she's lying.”
For their part, United's pet policy reads as follows:
“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.”
United Airlines spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin returned Fox News’ request for comment with the following statement:
“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,” she said.
“We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again,” Schmerin added.
The cause of death is not yet known, but, while the overhead compartments are not airtight, lack of oxygen may have been a factor.
According to a report from the Department of Transportation, United had the highest number of animal deaths and injuries among all U.S. airlines in 2017, with 18 animals killed and 13 injured while flying through the airline’s PetSafe cargo program.