By Charles Wade-Palmer
A giant rabbit, who was set to be the world’s largest, has mysteriously died after travelling on a flight with crisis-hit United Airlines.
Simon passed away at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport as he was transported to a new celebrity owner from his former Worcestershire home.
Previous owner Annette Edwards had put the ten month old rabbit on the Boeing 767 flight last week destined for to a life of luxury in the States
But she understands he was found dead by airport staff two hours after landing at a stop over before he was due to fly onto Canton, Ohio.
An investigation has now been launched into the death of the bunny which breeder Annette had sold for £300 to a “well-to-do gentleman” who asked to stay anonymous.
United Airlines are struggling to recover their reputation after being condemned round the world when passenger Dr David Dao was filmed being violently hauled off an overbooked flight.
Annette, 65, from Stoulton, Worcs, said: “Something has gone wrong somewhere and I can’t think for a moment what it might be because nothing like this has ever happened before – it’s awful.
“I was devastated and for a couple of days I was feeling numb, just awful and feeling really bad and I think everybody concerned was very upset.
“The gentleman receiving Simon got the phone call when he was on his way to the airport to collect him to be told he had died.”
United Airlines told Annette, a breeder of large rabbits, that 3ft 5ins long Simon survived the flight but died when being held in a storage room in Chicago on April 19.
The buyer, who had worked in showbusiness, is now expecting to be compensated by United Airlines after he forked out £2,000 on Simon’s flight, £85 vet bill and £300 for Simon himself.
Annette said: “What I cannot understand is if he was alright when he landed in Chicago what has happened between then and them finding him dead after he’d been checked on a couple of times?
“I need some answers before we send anyone else on a plane again.
“I was going to keep Simon but because I’ve got such a good relationship with the buyer I knew he’s going to have a good home so I was prepared to let Simon go.
“Simon was a stunning boy with black fur and blue eyes and the gentleman wanted a boy he could show off which was going to be so nice for Simon.
“I took him for a full health check at the vets on the day of his flight on the 19th of April. He went for his health check at around 6:15pm he left me around quarter past nine.
“He looked so happy at the vets, hopping about everywhere.
“He had his temperature taken, heart checked and a thorough going over which was all fine.
“He went from Heathrow to Canton and when he landed at Chicago he was checked and alright he was absolutely fine apparently he was left in a room for when they’ve got another flight to go.
“He was checked a couple of times and was alright but when they checked him for the next flight they found him dead.”
Simon is the son of Annette’s 4ft 4ins rabbit Darius, who holds the title of world’s biggest rabbit.
But he was expected to overtake Darius who weighs in at a whopping 2st 5lbs.
She said: “It’s just for the love of it Darius’ babies that I sell them. It gives me great pleasure to share these wonderful with these creatures around the world but it’s definitely not a business.”
“If one of Darius’ babies is going abroad they have to be at least 14 to 16 weeks old to fly. This gentleman wanted one that wasn’t very small but still getting bigger.
“I’ve sent quite a lot of animals abroad before but I’d never send them anywhere if I thought there was a risk of death so I need to know the results of the investigation.
“They’re now looking at CCTV to find out what’s gone wrong.
“At this stage we don’t know what to do and I’ve told the gentleman to let me know how he wants to go forward.
“Out of all the animals that travel every day it’s very rare for something like this to happen. Pets are transported all the time and not least in the army which is why I’m so shocked.”
A spokesman for United Airlines said: “”We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and well-being of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team.
“We have been in contact with our customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter.”