Friday, September 22, 2017

Crowd sourcing APB: Three major news outlets reported that a top Hollywood agent saved the life of an unidentified woman in a dramatic in-flight choking rescue on a Delta flight from Telluride to LA. The agent, his agency & the three reporters won't answer my questions, so did the incident really happen? If you were on the flight, please contact me! [UPDATE: Thanking me for my efforts, the IBT agrees to do "more reporting" on the story]

UPDATE (10:15AM ET, 9/22/17): Yesterday I had a productive e-mail exchange with an unnamed representative in the media relations department at the International Business Times UK office.

Today at 9:20AM ET I posted the story below the hash marks, but I did not send it to the IBT rep. Ten minutes after posting my item I received the following e-mail, so undoubtedly my story had nothing to do with IBT's decision.

Thank you once again for bringing this to our attention. We have raised your points with our colleagues in the U.S. and an IBT journalist will do more reporting on this story. Should there be any additional findings, IBT US will publish them. In the meantime, thank you for bringing this to our attention and for holding The International Business Times to a high standard.


IBT UK Communications


Ian Mohr at the NY Post's Page Six was the first journalist to report the dramatic "high-flying Heimlich" choking rescue in a September 5 article based on information from unnamed sources. When I informed him that my reporting raised questions about the veracity of his story, he didn't respond to multiple phone messages and e-mails. (source)

Via Top talent agent saves woman’s life on flight by Ian Mohr in the September 5, 2017 N.Y. Post's Page Six:
Top UTA agent Jeremy Barber saved a woman from choking to death during a flight headed back to LA from the Telluride Film Festival, sources told Page Six.
Barber -- a partner in the agency with clients including Anthony Hopkins, Don Cheadle, Sigourney Weaver, Noah Baumbach and Julian Fellowes -- was on the same Delta shuttle that’s been transporting stars such as Christian Bale and Natalie Portman to and from the remote Colorado town.

As Barber boarded the starry flight, he helped a woman stow her overhead bag, spies told Page Six.

But there was trouble later when “the same woman, who was sitting directly in front of him, started choking,” said a spy.

“She was about to die. It was not good. People were freaking out . . . he really saved her life.”

Barber jumped into action and employed the Heimlich maneuver, which he hadn’t attempted since learning the first-aid move in high school.

“After five or six tries, it came up,” said the impressed source. When the relieved woman was OK, she asked Barber, “Aren’t you the person who helped me with my bag?” He confirmed he was then joked, “That’s the last thing I’m doing for you on this flight!”

Writer David Seidler, producer Harvey Weinstein and agent Jeremy Barber attend a dinner hosted by Ann Barish for the Hamptons International Film Festival screening of "The King's Speech" at 75 Main Restaurant on October 8, 2010 in Southampton, New York. (source)

The dramatic lifesaving tale was promptly repeated by reporters Catie Keck at the International Business Times and Charlie Moore at the Daily Mail.

Putting aside the "chocking" spelling error, here's what's missing from all three stories.

If Jeremy Barber, the talent agent/reported rescuer, was interviewed by any of the three reporters, he inevitably would have been quoted. He's not.

There's nothing in any of the stories about the alleged choking victim. No name, no background, no photo -- and what she was choking on?

Inevitably Delta personnel would have been involved in a life-threatening medical emergency. But there's nothing in any of the stories about that and no Delta representative is quoted verifying the accuracy of the story. None of the three articles provide readers with even the date of the alleged incident and the flight number. (More about that below.)

And how did the unidentified "spy" who peddled the story to Ian Mohr at Page Six know that Barber hadn't "attempted (the Heimlich maneuver) since learning the first-aid move in high school." If that's accurate, it could only have come from Barber or someone he told.

A couple days after the story was published, in a friendly phone call with Mr. Mohr, he told me he didn't have any more information and urged me to contact United Talent Agency's (UTA) LA office.

He also asked me to get back to him with the results of my reporting because he might do a follow up. (I got the impression that he thought having the son of the doctor known for the Heimlich maneuver in the mix might add some news value.)

Over the past two weeks via multiple phone calls and e-mails, I've made best efforts to verify the story with Jeremy Barber, two of his assistants (Dominque and Becca), Jenna Price and Seth Oster in UTA's communications department, and a few Delta representatives.

No one would would confirm the veracity of the story.

Per Jake Gittes, the dogged private detective played by Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, that runs contrary to my experience.

In the course of fact-checking various choking rescue stories over the years as well as personal experiences, without exception, participants in choking emergencies involving my dad's namesake treatment have been thrilled to learn that I'm Dr. Henry Heimlich's son and they love to tell me their stories.

Invariably they ask me to thank my father for inventing the treatment and some people are so moved by their own experiences in choking rescues that they've thanked me for the Heimlich maneuver! (I always explain that I'm delighted "the Heimlich" was effective in their cases, but I had nothing to do with developing it.)

Per countless daily news reports about choking rescues, being part of an emergency lifesaving situation as victim or rescuer is an emotional, intimate, life-changing experience -- and it's human nature to want to share the details, especially when there's a good outcome like the reported story about Jeremy Barber.

In contrast, the behavior of everyone I contacted at UTA seemed evasive and almost hostile, cutting off conversations to get off the phone with me. And several employees promised to get back to me with answers to my questions, but never did.

Further, if the rescue really happened, UTA might even issue a press release to praise Mr. Barber for his heroism. In an industry driven by ballyhoo, that could generate a million bucks of "good news" publicity.

And where are the eyewitnesses to the dramatic, in-flight rescue? Where are the inevitable camera phone videos and post-rescue selfies of Mr. Barber, the unidentified woman, family, friends, etc?

Per Jake Gittes...

source and source

I don't have the swat to compel Jeremy Barber to fill in the blanks, so I turned to the three reporters who ran with this ball: Ian Mohr at the NY Post, Catie Keck at the IBT, and Charlie Moore at the Daily Mail.

In my opinion I'd accumulated enough reasonable doubt to merit them taking a second look, especially Mr. Mohr who had asked me to get back to him with the results of my reporting in anticipation of a potential follow-up.

Wednesday (two days ago) and yesterday I left Mr. Mohr detailed voice messages and I e-mailed him and the other two journalists the results of my reporting with a request that they answer this simple yes/no question:
Would you please discuss this with your editors and let me know if you intend to attempt to fact-check your stories?
Despite multiple attempts, except for confirmations of receipt, I haven't received responses from any of them.

Here's a good question. If, as it appears, Mr. Mohr, Ms. Ceck, and Mr. Moore don't care about providing accurate information to their readers, why should anyone believe anything under their bylines?

Further, the jury may still be out re: the veracity of the choking rescue story they reported, but if their publications won't fact-check it, some might consider that an insult to the professionals who contend with real life-threatening choking incidents -- EMTs and other medical professionals, police, firefighters, etc. -- and to ordinary people who step in to try to help others in distress.

Since everyone seems to be playing ostrich, I'm trying to locate passengers on the Delta flight.

According to the Telluride Film Festival website, this year the event was held from September 1-4 and Mr. Mohr's article ran on September 5.

Therefore the flight was within that time window. So I asked Ashton Morrow, a Delta media relations representative, for a list of all flights from Telluride to LA during that period.

He wrote me that there was but one: Delta flight DL 8877 on September 4th.

Therefore, unless I'm missing something or the three reporters-in-hiding got it wrong, that's the only flight Mr. Barber could have taken and, of course, the only flight on which the reported choking rescue could have occurred.

If you were on that flight or you can provide any related information, I'd welcome hearing from you. Please click here for my contact information.