On July 18, 2023, the dubious Twitter account known as Died Suddenly (@DiedSuddenly_) tweeted a screenshot of a news story that read, "Gary Detman, the digital news manager at South Florida CBS affiliate WPEC, died this week following a medical emergency." A second, smaller screenshot was added on top of the news story image that showed a Facebook post in which Detman had posted in 2021 that he had been vaccinated. In other words, the baseless implication made by the tweet was that Detman had died because of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As we've reported before, the account's name, Died Suddenly, references a false conspiracy-theory rumor that claims COVID-19 vaccines increase the risk of death.
A primary strategy of the Died Suddenly account has historically been to seize on any death reports that can be found in order to promote an anti-vaccine agenda, all while victims' family and friends are still very much in mourning. In return, the account's followers believe the baseless information, even after it's revealed the death wasn't related to the vaccine.
It's true that Detman, 53, was a digital content manager at WPEC-TV, also known as CBS 12 News, which is in West Palm Beach, Florida. His death on April 27, 2023, was announced on air the following day.
It's with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague, Gary Detman.
Gary took charge of CBS12's digital efforts.
Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/aGXf31L9h8
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) April 29, 2023
As for the Died Suddenly tweet that came later in July, Detman's fiancée, Sandy Collier, posted a response: "I am Gary Detman's fiancée, and your information is FALSE. Please do not use Gary's death for your agenda. Gary was a journalist who valued telling the truth; he fact-checked everything before putting it out to the public. Please remove this information from your platform."
I am Gary Detman's Fiancee, and your information is FALSE. Please do not use Gary's death for your agenda. Gary was a journalist who valued telling the truth; he fact-checked everything before putting it out to the public. Please remove this information from your platform.
— Sandy Collier (@HeySandyPR) July 21, 2023
Collier also said much the same in an email to Snopes:
Gary was an experienced journalist who valued truthful reporting. Spreading false information is harmful to everyone, particularly those who rely on accuracy. I want to clarify that Gary did not pass away due to the Covid vaccine.
On Facebook, Collier shared heartfelt thoughts about Detman for her followers, saying, in part, "I miss you. I am so grateful for the time God allowed us to spend together. I love you, babe. I KNOW you are at peace."
We previously reported about the hospitalizations and deaths of other individuals whose stories were twisted and never corrected by the "died suddenly" conspiracy theory movement, even after they learned they were incorrect about the assertions. Examples included the hospitalization of Claire Bridges, as well as the deaths of Lisa Loring, Callie Driskill, Lisa Marie Presley, and Antwun Echols, just to name a few.
If any of our readers are aware of family members or friends who know of people whose deaths have been misused by anti-vaccine accounts, feel free to contact us. If you do reach out, please include full names, key dates, and other important details that would benefit our reporting.