NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - A United Airlines flight attendant made a family put their puppy and its TSA-compliant pet carrier into the overhead bin for a flight from Houston to New York City Monday night.
When United 1284 landed, the dog was dead.
Catalina Robledo, her daughter Sophia, 11, her newborn baby, and their 10-month-old French bulldog Coquito flew from Houston back home to New York Monday.
In an interview with Fox 5's Linda Schmidt, Sophia said that they were going to put the dog carrier under the seat, as is airline policy, when a flight attendant made her mom put the pooch in the overhead bin.
"'This is my dog, why put it there?'" Catalina said she told the flight attendant. The mom said the crewmember told her "it doesn't matter" and kept the dog in the bin.
During the four-hour flight, the puppy barked for a while and then stopped. The family thought he was barking because he gets scared on flights.
"He was just asking for help," Sophia said.
When the plane arrived at LaGuardia, Catalina opened the bin, brought down the pet carrier, and found Coquito's lifeless body. She hit him on the chest to make him breathe, but nothing worked, Sophia said.
As Sophia and her mom cried, some shocked passengers tweeted and posted about the tragedy on Facebook.
One passenger posted a narrative and photos on Facebook.
"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," June Lara wrote on Facebook. "There was no sound as we landed and opened his kennel. There was no movement as his family called his name. 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."
In a statement, United spokesperson Maggie Schmerin said the airline is "thoroughly investigating" what happened so that it never happens again.
"This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin," Schmerin said. "We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them."
"He was my best friend. I slept with him," Sophia said. "He was a big support for me."
The Robledo family told Fox 5 that United told them someone would be in touch but they are still waiting.
Travel website The Points Guy first reported the incident.