First Autopsy Of Deceased US Airways Passenger Inconclusive

The first autopsy of Carol Ann Gotbaum, the woman who died in a Phoenix airport holding cell after being arrested for causing a disturbance, was inconclusive and a second will be performed.

Gotbaum, who had attempted suicide twice before, was supposed to meet a friend at the airport. The friend didn’t show, and Gotbaum, who was on her way to an alcohol treatment center in Tucson, got drunk and missed her flight, according to airline workers.

From the Daily News:

The daughter-in-law of city Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum frantically dialed home when Phoenix ticket agents refused to let her board a flight to a stint in alcohol rehab.

“They are not letting me on! It’s all falling apart,” Carol Anne Gotbaum told her husband, Noah, before she dropped the phone at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, witnesses said.

Noah Gotbaum called back, desperately trying to persuade the U.S. Airways Express agent to calm his wife and let the mother of three board the plane for the $42,000-a-month Cottonwood de Tucson rehab program, friends and witnesses said.

“It will be okay. She just needs to take her medication. … She hasn’t taken it today,” an airline worker said Noah Gotbaum begged. His wife was taking prescriptions for anxiety and depression, sources said.

The airline agent called Phoenix police, who soon grappled with and cuffed the distraught 45-year-old, then shackled her to a bench in an airport holding area Friday.

Less than an hour later, Carol Anne Gotbaum was dead, apparently strangled by the 16-inch chain used to hook her handcuffs to the bench.

A witness speaking to WCBS says Gotbaum was screaming, ‘You’re hurting me! The handcuffs are too tight on me!'”

Another says, “She got her cell phone, broke it on a couple of customers and she threw it on the floor, hit them.”

Carol Anne Gotbaum’s desperate last call [Daily News via Gothamist]
Passenger Describes Gotbaum Incident in Phoenix [WCBS]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hanke says:

    Again, the airline has nothing to do with this…why do you keep doing this…

  2. serreca says:

    Do you think it’s possible she killed herself? Depressed with suicidal tendencies and didn’t take her medication that day, then dealing with the stress of the airport (which can make even a mentally healthy person feel nutso)… not a good combination. Bad situation all around.

  3. hypnotik_jello says:

    Call me a cynic, but I just don’t believe these witnesses. All their accounts just don’t jibe together. Conflicting accounts of the story.

  4. All she wanted was a PEPSI!

  5. urban_ninjya says:

    I was reading a Slate explainer on this. They suspected she was trying to do a Hodini move to bring the handcuffs over her head by dislocating her shoulder, then twisting the arm over. But was unable to dislocate the shoulder and complete the manever and ended up with left arm under the chin and twisted up with nowhere to move.

  6. hc5duke says:

    $42000 per month for rehab? seriously? that’s more than a lot of people make in a year!

  7. RvLeshrac says:


    You’d damn well better believe that the airline has something to do with this, starting with the fact that they and everyone else in this country rolled over and accepted these stupid restrictions after 9/11.

    What happened to “Give me liberty, or give me death”? When did we start shouting “Give me liberty, unless you can provide me with more safety in exchange”?

  8. Leiterfluid says:

    @RvLeshrac: So behaving like an ass in public was okay before 9/11? I agree with Hanke. This could just have easily been an Alaskan Airlines passenger, or Southwest, or Delta. Knowing which airline she missed her flight on doesn’t advance the story at all.

    9/11 is not a panacea. It doesn’t explain consistently poor service from airline, airport, and security personnel, which predates 9/11 by years.

  9. catcherintheeye says:

    “A witness speaking to WCBS says Gotbaum was screaming, ‘You’re hurting me! The handcuffs are too tight on me!'”

    As the child of a former police officer, and someone who has been in the back of a squad car (not his father’s, unfortunately), I can tell you that handcuffs are going to be tight, and the more you resist them and tense up, the tighter they are going to be. When the reporters add these comments, it comes across as police brutality, not the fact that handcuffs are pieces of metal intent on keeping you from resisting, not fuzzy silk mittens with built-in hand lotion. Watch COPS any given night, everyone complains about the same thing.

    “Less than an hour later, Carol Anne Gotbaum was dead, apparently strangled by the 16-inch chain used to hook her handcuffs to the bench.”

    16-inch chain? Sounds like an excellent opportunity for someone to either kill themselves, or pretend to do it to get attention, only to get a little carried away and wind up on the Consumerist.

  10. pshah says:

    @RvLeshrac: finally some sanity…
    @LEITERFLUID : I remember air travel being much more painless prior 9/11

    Also however she behaved, she didn’t deserve to die this way IMO.

    Part of the article [] :
    “She was screaming, ‘You’re hurting me! The handcuffs are too tight on me!'” the woman said.

    The Phoenix medical examiner is attempting to learn whether she strangled herself with her handcuffs, as police say. Autopsy results have yet to be released, but critics of the police are already crying foul.

    “One has to wonder whether there was not some over-reaction, some excessive force and entirely inappropriate response to the problem here,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

    After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks security was intensified at airports around the country. The question in this case is whether all that new security did more harm than good.

    “They come there with weapons. They come there with an orientation towards force — that’s what police officers do,” John Jay College Professor Eugene O’Donnell said. “And they should be reserved, absolutely reserved, for situations where they are needed and where there really is a genuine breach of the peace, not the kinds of scenes that are repeated all over the country every day in airports.”

  11. mandarin says:

    You’re heading to a 42,000 a month rehab and you’re drunk?

  12. formergr says:

    @mandarin: Dude, RTFA. She got drunk after her trip to rehab was held up because she was too late to be allowed on her flight to get there. I am not an addict, but I imagine the decision to head to rehab is a hard one, so anything that gets in the way would play some serious head games. I guess she felt it was all hopeless once they denied her boarding, and got a drink to cope (which, hello, why she needed rehab to begin with– to learn to cope without alcohol).

    I think no matter what (whether accidental death or suicide), it all comes down to her being left handcufffed while unsupervised in a cell, which is totally against all police procedure for exactly this reason.

  13. sonichghog says:

    @RvLeshrac: So you want passangers that are acting completely nuts onto a flight you are on.

  14. K-Bo says:

    @formergr: Read again, she was drunk before she missed it. She got drunk because her friend who was presumably supposed to be there for support never showed.

  15. BritBoy says:

    This doesnt belong on Consumerist. A sad and tragic incident, some one struggling with illness and alcohol. Please keep this site on track and on topic.

  16. humphrmi says:

    @RvLeshrac: Um, really dude, this isn’t about liberty or the airline agreeing to any “restrictions”. She was late for her flight, and they didn’t let her board. Airlines have been doing this for ages, and it has nothing to do with 9/11.

  17. smarty says:

    @formergr: You might want to edit your comment to mandarin after you RTFA.

    According to the link(NYDailyNews) provided by Consumerist:
    “Gotbaum was sober on the flight from Manhattan to Phoenix, but a friend who was supposed to meet her at the terminal for the last leg to Tucson failed to show, sources said.

    She had lunch solo at the terminal, got drunk and didn’t hear her connecting flight being called for Tucson, airline workers said.

    She was jittery as she went through security and was pulled aside to be patted down, a witness said. Gotbaum said, “I have to get my flight. I’m late for my flight,” the witness said.

    She arrived at the gate just eight minutes before the plane was supposed to leave and was turned away.”

    I RTFA and the order of events were:
    Lunch…Drunk…Flight called but not heard…Late for boarding…Turned away.

    Clearly (according to NYDailyNews) she got drunk BEFORE trying to board her flight.

  18. smarty says:

    @Hanke: Who knows. If US Airways delayed the flight to let her board, it’s US Airways’ fault for being late, and the other passengers can email bomb the US Airways executives for another late flight complaint. But US Airways denied her boarding for being late, and as we have already seen, some people are blaming US Airways for her death. Consumerist Catch-22.

  19. samftla says:

    This is unreal, one post seems to only want to defend the airline, another insisting the police are not to blame. Another oh she was just drunk and how much the hospital costs. The insensitivity here is baffling, a women is dead. And yes someone is responsible. A person does not need to check themselves into a hospital because everything is fine in their lives. The women was sick. It may not be the kind of illness you approve of, but an illness none the less. A physical, emotional and mental illness. Why the family allowed her to travel alone is insane to begin with. And the airline agent that spoke with her husband obviously got the message that the women was ill and had “not taken her medication today… “

    But it does not take a professional to see that the women obviously needed to be restrained and provided immediate medical attention, not chained and dumped in a cell all alone. I suspect that the Phoenix police department must get better training in how to deal with mentally disturbed individuals than they exhibited in this case.

  20. RvLeshrac says:


    That’s funny. I remember a trip to Vegas during the 90s where we were allowed to board a connecting flight in Dallas-Ft. Worth just one minute before the door closed. (And YOU try getting from [literally] one end of KDFW to the other in 30 minutes to connect, before I hear any comments about ‘showing up early’)

    I don’t understand how her boarding before the aircraft closed the door or pulled away from the terminal has anything to do with the plane being or not being on time. Hell, it was probably late before she showed up. Does it take ten minutes to walk across the gangplank and find your seat?

    And people acting ‘crazy’ on flights can include many things. Do we not allow anyone with Down’s on a flight? How about people with Parkinson’s? Alzheimer’s? Jews are stereotyped as being neurotic, so no jews on planes. And no one who has even the slightest fear of flying! Forget the Air Marshalls, too, since they’re trained to be a little high-strung. No more wacky flight attendants – all flight attendants must be stoics. They should probably be eunuchs, as well, since that’ll keep the sexual tension out of the air.

    While we’re at it, no one taking any medication should be allowed on the plane – they can’t legally require you to list your medications, so we don’t want to put the other passengers at undue risk if you’re someone who takes antidepressants or antipsychotics – what happens if you miss a dose on the plane?! No smokers or drinkers on the plane! No alcohol! You’re liable to wig out and bust a window so you can smoke!

    As a matter of fact, everyone should just be required to board the aircraft completely nude. Then they can strap us to tables and stack us up like dominoes. Then no one will ever be able to harm anyone else on a plane, or even ANNOY anyone else on a plane.

    Hopefully, that would be due to everyone avoiding flight like it was the plague.

  21. humphrmi says:

    @RvLeshrac: They didn’t deny her boarding because she was acting ‘crazy’, in fact I’m pretty sure most of the articles so far have been pretty clear that she didn’t have any behavior problem until they denied her boarding, simply because she was late.

    Your anecdotal evidence of not being denied boarding aside, the policy has been in place with most airlines for decades.

    The airline did what they were supposed to do… follow policy, and call the police at the first sign of trouble. It was after the police took control of the situation that things went terribly wrong.

  22. sonichghog says:

    @RvLeshrac: Oh thats nice, All Jews are crazy(rolleyes)

    Here, let me make it easy for you.

    A person being a jew does not make them crazy
    A person with DS is retarded, not crazy
    A person with parkensins is not crazy
    A person with Alzheimers is not crazy

    A person that is drunk, and acting historical, ok a bit crazy.

    Come on, I thought you view type of view on jews stopped sometime in the 1940s….

  23. sonichghog says:

    “She got her cell phone, broke it on a couple of customers and she threw it on the floor, hit them,” the woman said.

    “It will be okay. She just needs to take her medication. … She hasn’t taken it today,”

    Sounds sane to me…….

  24. HungryGrrl says:

    No one has commented on this no show ‘friend’… If a negligent-manslaughter charge is brought against the TSA, one should definitely be brought against the ‘friend’ too, who didn’t show up to provide this woman with the emotional support she clearly needed during what should have been a major, positive, life change.

    It’s a tragedy. It’s an accident. The TSA probably won’t lock handcuffed people up anymore.. or if they do, they’ll keep constant watch on them, instead of checking on them every 15 minutes.

  25. hypnotik_jello says:

    @sonichghog: You’re obviously not familiar with hyperbole are you?

  26. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    I bet the autopsy found the police at fault. Instead of admitting their mistake, they’re trying to cover it up with “inconclusive.” Anytime the government says “inconclusive” or anything short of “we fucked up, and those responsible were fired, and we’re sorry” they’re trying to cover up THEIR screwup.

  27. donald.kovach says:

    Since when is being an ass in public a capitol offense? Terrorist bombers aren’t going to be loud and obnoxious in airports, so we shouldn’t be restraining people who have legitimate reasons to be upset. Where is the understanding and compassion in all this? If people are dying, then someone needs to be held accountable.

  28. ArtDonovansLoveChild. says:

    @IRSistherootofallevil: SO, what you are saying is the COPS must always be guilty? Cause if anytime they say anything other then “We fucked up” they are coverring things up that means they will never be not guilty.

    Maybe inconclusive means just that. They cant conclude what caused the chain to wrap around her neck from the autopsy. They do this because if they cant PROVE she did it to herself then the parents and the hippy brigade quoted in the article will insist its a cover up, just like you did. My guess is she had bruising, and marks on her neck. Exactly what you would see in either a police brutality case OR a woman going into a fit of rage.

    But I guess that fits most of the people and posters on here, Government bad, corporations evil, everyone is out to get you, stick it to the man.

  29. Extended-Warranty says:

    Another rich snob woman bites the dust. Oh well.

  30. LTS! says:

    So I did some quick research, the flight from NYC to Tucson, on UsAirWays would leave JFK and arrive at 12:21 PHX time. The connecting flight is at 2:58pm (as stated in the article, she missed that flight).

    I can understand that a friend was supposed to meet her at the airport which is potentially why no family member accompanied her.

    We know the rest so far, she got drunk, got out of control, got restrained, got dead.

    There are two autopsies performed today, one by county medical examiner and one by an “independent” doctor hired by her family. They’ve also hired a high profile attorney with a history of cases against the jurisdiction in question.

    So, what will we all learn from this? Nothing, because this will be “celebrity” vs. the system and as we’ve seen so many times before, it will be a dog and pony show.

    So, in 2.5 hours you can do a pretty good job of getting yourself hammered, but you have to be at an airport bar to do so. So I wonder, why no comments from the bar she was drinking at? Yea, no answer needed there.

    No comment on whether she was purchasing alcohol on the flight from JFK or did she fly first class with complimentary “beverage service” all the way.

    In retrospect, as I’ve read, the family is upset that they allowed her to travel alone. They should be. If you can afford rehab like that you should be able to afford a plane ticket to Tucson, if she was THAT MESSED UP why would you rely upon her getting there without incident?

    I’d have to agree that all indications at this point show the police mishandling her in regards to leaving someone in her mental state unguarded but it’s true that all facts are not yet out. Of course, who knows what the facts are or if we’ll know.

    My final plea to consumerist… I agree, first, this is not a consumerism issue. Second, just call her by name and not the USAirways passenger, I realize that it helps build some kind of continuity but anyone who cares probably knows her name by now.

    Apparently NYC has no good rehab centers… that’s a shame really for a city of that size.

  31. chili_dog says:

    I have worked the gates. I have had screaming passengers telling what an asshole I am for allowing the flight to leave without them on it. I have been assaulted, spit upon, told how they will sue me and the airline into the stone age (true story). But in the end there is one simple fact, traveling by commercial aircraft does not allow the person to be a nut. IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.

    If you act like a nut then you will be told to calm down. If you fail to chill out then the cops will be called.

    This woman didn;t deserve to die, even if it was her own fault, but come on, if the family can afford 42K a month (hell, even a year) for rehab then they can afford to send a chaperon with this woman. And someone who is in need of anti-depressants and is a known alcoholic requires a chaperon to travel across the country. Period.

    At this point if anyone is to blame, I an looking squarely at the husband who was so buy to allow his wife to travel unescorted. Personal responsibility starts at home, not in the holding cell.

  32. Trojan69 says:

    So now there needs to be 24/7 observation of all inmates? Since when?

    Also, what a great plan. Force the unstable lady to leave the secure terminal in order to meet some “friend.” Who dreamed that one up? Just what she needed – another complication.

    Finally, for $42K, I would think that the facility could spring for someone to pick up clients in Phoenix. It’s not that long a drive to Tucson. But no, let’s give them one last great chance to binge before they get there.

  33. Paul says:

    @rainmkr: LOL! I wish more people understood why your comment rocked.

  34. chili_dog says:

    @Trojan69: The drive to Tucson is about an hour and a half on the I-10, that makes anywhere on I95 look preferable. The flight down is 18 min and believe me, no one makes the drive voluntarily.

  35. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    I’m not sure if I can trust the government with their track record of lying. No, I definitely can’t trust them. And most government workers, especially politicians, are incompetent, overpaid schmucks, who probably couldn’t hold a job in the private sector. I’m not saying that the private sector’s perfect, but they have more accountability than the government. Let’s name some examples of gov’t incompetence…basically all the elected schmucks, DHS, TSA, FDA, CPSC, the list goes on.

    So therefore, they have the burden of proof. I wonder why you people accept this kind of incompetence. If a private corporation were this incompetent and unable to turn a profit year after year, the entire management would have been fired year after year. This level of unaccountability is unacceptable. If the government isn’t hiding anything, prove it. Don’t hide under antiterrorism or patriotism or whatever other catch phrase they hide under.

  36. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    It’s people like ArtDonovansLoveChild that allow government to get so big that it starts becoming totalitarian. Government has power. It’s got guns. Therefore, as a good citizen, you must ALWAYS question its motives, intentions and actions. When government has to answer to the people, liberty and freedom flourish. When you trust them, they turn into the Bush regime. Thus, YOU MUST ALWAYS DISTRUST GOVERNMENT. ALWAYS. THEIR MOTIVES ARE ALWAYS QUESTIONABLE, AND THEIR COMPETENCY AS WELL AS LEGITIMACY IS ALWAYS QUESTIONABLE. You saw what happened when the people fear the government. You also saw what happens when the people don’t take crap sitting down. CEO’s have to answer to their investors, why shouldn’t government have to answer to its people? Are you asking me to completely trust them? Because I don’t completely trust anyone. And distrust is what keeps you safe. Safe from people that want to do you harm, and safe from people who want to take your rights away, domestic OR foreign.

    There’s a reason the bill of rights exists: and that’s because the government can’t be trusted to not abuse its power, and therefore, the founding fathers were smart enough to legally forbid it.

    And government has proven over and over again that it needs to be COMPLETELY micromanaged; therefore, its our job to micromanage government, since they proved over and over again that they can’t function competently without it.

  37. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    Man, think of it this way, the guy saved 42 Grand. An optimist i am!

  38. descend says:


    I agree — the ones at fault are her family who didn’t bother to see their clearly unstable family member safely to rehab. They can spend that much on the rehab, but can’t take the day of work to escort her there?

  39. formergr says:

    @Trojan69: You said, “So now there needs to be 24/7 observation of all inmates? Since when?” I don’t think anyone is saying that. What I’m saying (and others), is you don’t leave anyone (regardless of their mental state) unobserved in a cell with restraints on.

    If they’re behind bars (especially if they are alone in a cell)– no need to be cuffed, too. That’s sort of the point of a cell.

  40. descend says:


    I’m happy to micromanage gov’t, and this manager says once she starts throwing shit at other passengers, she needs to be restrained.

  41. bonzombiekitty says:

    A witness speaking to WCBS says Gotbaum was screaming, ‘You’re hurting me! The handcuffs are too tight on me!'”

    Really, people say that all the time. Ever watch Cops? People, especially those that are drunk, seem to always scream about how the police are hurting them and the handcuffs are too tight. Handcuffs are SUPPOSED to be tight. They are not going to be comfortable.

  42. Anonymous says:

    For the record, it is absolutely not true that what happened was against police procedure.
    It’s just not true. I am getting a little weary of people coming on here and pretending that they are experts on what is or is not standard police procedure.
    So please, stop polluting this site with fabrications.
    “Hill said officers followed established policy while detaining Gotbaum. Police also said their procedures for arresting someone at the airport haven’t changed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
    Nothing has changed in the way the police handle detainees. This was by the book.
    Let’s try, just a little bit, to get our facts straight instead of pretending we all know what we are talking about, making ridiculous claims about security changes since 9/11, and claiming to know procedure when you clearly do not.
    This is a tragedy, but not one that can so easily be attributed to police misconduct, no matter how active your imaginations are….
    Thank you!

  43. pshah says:

    @bonzombiekitty: Except you can’t compare alleged criminals on COPS with this lady who was trying to get help in a rehab.

    I am all for passenger safety and removing a public nuisance but I think the US Airways agent who the husband talked to should have conveyed the info that the lady needs her meds… and if he/she did that then police definitely didn’t handle this as they should… if the agent failed to mention this then shame on him/her.

  44. Anonymous says:

    You bring up an interesting point about the burden of proof.
    You are incorrect, but it is interesting nonetheless and is illustrative of the typical reactionary.
    In this case, the burden of proof falls squarely on the people who would attempt to prosecute the police department for wrongful death or police misconduct. See, the police department would be ‘defending’ themselves here, which makes their burden slight in the face of the accusation. All they need is a shadow of a doubt.
    See, if someone were to try to press charges of police misconduct or murder, they would have to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the actions of the police officers were negligent or that the policies directly led to the death of this person. However, since this is the established procedure, it makes it highly unlikely that anything of the sort can be proven. After all, a reasonable person wouldn’t try to escape handcuffs after being detained and shackled to the wall of a detention center. A reasonable person would wait it out, file a grievance, and attempt to seek restitution. An unreasonable person would try to escape from an unescapable situation.
    Let’s try and be reasonable here – let’s say she managed to get the cuffs to the front. Then what? What possible good could come from that action? Let’s say that by some miracle, she was able to get the cuffs off (which is highly unlikely). What next? The room has one exit, the door, and there are police posted at the door. She would have been re-shackled and charged with additional crimes. So what is the upside?
    It is of no consequence what you believe or think about the rights of the police to detain a woman for her behavior. It really doesn’t. The police have a duty to protect the peace, and tried to fulfill that duty. Like it or not, oppose it or support it, the correct action in this case is to cooperate, then deal with it later.
    Sadly, this woman died as a result of her hysteria.
    And ‘mistrusting’ the government is unreasonable. It is fine to question. It is American to demand answers. But our police force, by and large, is taked with an incredibly difficult job and deserve respect. There is a difference between respectfully demanding answers and being a disrespectful jerk who says that all government employees are morons who couldn’t make it in the private sector.

  45. chili_dog says:

    @pshah: the US Airways agent who the husband talked to should have conveyed the info that the lady needs her meds. Are you serious?

    How does a 20-something punk with no social/mental/medical training convey to anyone that someone is in need of meds. And on top of that, if the agent did indeed take this woman aside and force these meds upon her, then she would have opened themselves up for a huge lawsuit.

    By the way, the Us Airways employee manual for disruptive passengers is explicit in saying that if a passenger is under the influence of anything (or suspected to be) and you are threatened that the required step is to contact Phoenix PD. The escalation is there because most passengers that go nuts in the boarding area are a threat to others and must be stopped by those that have the authority to do so.

  46. chili_dog says:

    Read this story: []

  47. hypnotik_jello says:

    @chili_dog: Missing body parts? Wtf

  48. pshah says:


    About the same time, witnesses said that she was screaming, “I’m not a terrorist! I’m a sick mom!” he said.

    She was arrested at 2:53 p.m. Friday amid an outburst that apparently was prompted when she missed her connecting flight to Tucson. Police said she refused to calm down and “ended up on the floor as they tried to handcuff her.” She was dragged to a holding area where her hands, cuffed behind her back, were attached to a bench with a shackle. Police say she was left alone no longer than eight minutes. Officers checked on her after she stopped yelling and discovered her unconscious. She was pronounced dead at 3:29 p.m.

    “ended up on the floor” … !!
    “She was dragged to a holding area where her hands, cuffed behind her back, were attached to a bench with a shackle.”… and dead in 8 minutes… magically… just like that…

    all i need to say is :
    B U L L S H ! T

  49. pshah says:

    Manning said the Medical Examiner’s Office offered no explanation for keeping the organs, other than to say, “We’re too busy” to provide them. Manning said Gotbaum’s body bears several bruises and marks, including a neck bruise that could have been caused if the shackle chain asphyxiated her. He has handled two other cases in which clients died in a Maricopa County jail, and testimony in those cases suggested that medical examiners had mishandled evidence.
    “They destroyed evidence, lost evidence, changed evidence and created evidence (in those cases). We were not going to take the chance that something like that would happen again,” Manning said. “There is a very tight relationship between law-enforcement and medical-examiner offices everywhere in the country, including Phoenix.”

    Oh no… how could there possibly be a cover up…

  50. Anonymous says:

    She ended up on the floor because she was resisting arrest.
    The fact that she died in 8 minutes is not magic, nor is it okay to say ‘just like that’.
    go read the slate article that describes what she likely did in trying to escape her handcuffs. It fits perfectly considering the way they found her:
    It isn’t magic, nor is it something that is all that unusual. She was either trying to get out of her handcuffs or trying to kill herself, both of which are sad.
    As to the resisting arrest, SOP dictates getting the person under control so you can safely prevent her from injuring anyone else. Most of the time, this involves taking someone to the floor when they resist. From the prone position, it is much easier to manage a suspect and handcuff them, preventing them from injuring the responding officers or anyone else in the immediate area.
    SOP. No magic involved.

  51. Anonymous says:

    One way to prevent a coverup is to hire a physician to supervise that isn’t a county medical examiner, which the family did. The police are complying.
    “Mr. Manning said that the Maricopa County medical examiner’s office, which is responsible for such investigations at the Phoenix airport, had initially scheduled an autopsy for yesterday, but that at his request, the office had agreed to delay it. Mr. Manning also said that he wanted an independent forensic pathologist to be present during the autopsy.”
    If they wanted to cover it up, they wouldn’t allow the independent forensic pathologist.

  52. hypnotik_jello says:

    @fejjnagaf: Seems the medical examiner is giving some body parts back though?


    ‘Manning said the Medical Examiner’s Office offered no explanation for keeping the organs, other than to say, “We’re too busy” to provide them.’

    Seems suspect.

  53. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @pshah: @fejjnagaf:

    Civil discourse and no flaming — awesome — this is what I was talking about. Thank you.

  54. hypnotik_jello says:

    @hypnotik_jello: err, “isn’t”

  55. MrEvil says:

    No matter how the chain got wrapped around the woman’s neck, the bottom line is the officers left a suspect in handcuffs unattended. A woman whose mental faculties had escaped her. I don’t beleive for one second the police had any mal-intent but made a mistake as humans tend to do. Unfortunately the price for the mistake is someone is dead. Police officers have to make a call as to weather or not a person is also a threat to themselves, not just other people.

  56. bonzombiekitty says:


    @bonzombiekitty: Except you can’t compare alleged criminals on COPS with this lady who was trying to get help in a rehab.

    Why not? She was drunk and throwing a fit – same type of people on Cops. The article mentions that she was complaining about the police hurting her and that the handcuffs were on too tight. I’ve seen enough people getting arrested both on TV and in real life to know that people, especially drunk ones, yell that out a lot. So how is it different in this situation? Her desire to go into rehab is totally irrelevant to the situation.

  57. Anonymous says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS:
    I have made a conscious choice to try and avoid acknowledging or responding with venom after our little talk yesterday…
    You are welcome.

  58. bonzombiekitty says:

    (sorry if this is a double post, sometimes I can’t tell if a comment went through or not)


    Except you can’t compare alleged criminals on COPS with this lady who was trying to get help in a rehab.

    Why not? She was drunk and being disorderly that’s why the cops were called. The fact that she was going to rehab is totally irrelevant to her behavior in the airport and the fact that people, especially drunk people, often yell out that cops are hurting them and the handcuffs are on too tight.

  59. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Hey, respect is earned, not given. Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling had a difficult job, but do I respect them? No, they don’t deserve my respect. And anyone who abuses their power does not deserve respect or dignifying treatment for that matter. If they do not value another person’s dignity, they do not deserve to be treated in a dignifying way.

    Descend: If that applies, then this manager says we should sedate everyone under the age of 12 when they’re flying, alone or with a parent. That’s a slippery slope, and I’m not going down that slope, and I’m not even going to entertain the idea of going down the slippery slope.

    This manager says fire and replace everyone who works for PHX.

  60. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    By micromanage, I meant you’re taking ALL decision making power from the government, and taking away ALL discretion from it. It will get some of the decisionmaking power back if or when it earns it.

  61. @chili_dog: I think pshah meant that if they knew the woman was on medication for a mental illness they might not have left her alone.

    @HungryGrrl: While the friend failed to come through I don’t think you can argue that the friend was ever legally responsible for the passenger that died while the police were responsible for her while she was detained. This is not to say that the friend not showing up doesn’t suck. I just don’t think you could make a charge stick. We don’t even know why the friend didn’t go to the airport.

    I wonder why wasn’t someone with her the whole way. The first fight she took alone.

  62. Anonymous says:

    I can understand not respecting someone who has shown that they don’t deserve it, but in this case it doesn’t apply.
    And why fire people who work at the airport when THEY WEREN’T INVOLVED?
    This was a police matter, which was handled by the police not airport workers.

  63. pshah says:

    @fejjnagaf: Read the article… US Airways agent was involved.. he could have use discretion… asked for an ambulance along with police assistance… other

    There was a breakdown in the system…
    If not…
    The system needs to be changed…

  64. pshah says:

    @IRSistherootofallevil: I agree… nothing happens in vacuum… neither did this incident… lot of players played their part… little compassion here would have gone a long way… but then we have to stop assuming every passenger is a terrorist and stop (ab)using their power *gasp*

  65. Anonymous says:

    Respectuflly, the US airways agent’s involvement was limited to speaking on the phone to the husband and being berated by Gotbaum. The police don’t have to listen to a thing that agent has to say. As a matter of law, the police responded to a disorderly conduct call and assessed the situation as best as they could. Alchoholism is a disease, but not a sign of mental deficiency. The police came upon an intoxicated woman who was running up and down the gate, screaming, and throwing things. They had to restrain her. And the husband may have told the agent, but all he said was that she hadn’t taken her meds. The specific med wasn’t relayed, nor was the reason for the med. So what should the police have done? They cannot diagnose every suspect for mental health before during and after each detention. Their job is to protect the public, which they attempted to do using their experience and training. According to the initial investigation, they followed procedure. If this woman was so mentally disturbed that she was a danger without her meds and was heading off to rehab, she should have been accompanied the entire way from door to door and not been allowed to travel on her own. By all accounts, this was not the case. I simply cannot conceive of a scenario where the airline employees hadn’t tried, multiple times, to calm her down and been met with more yelling, more screaming, more throwing of stuff. At some point, the police have to be involved. Airline employees are not equipped to handle scenarios like this, and they shouldn’t have to be. Once a person crosses the line from passenger to screaming like a lunatic, running up and down the hanger, and throwing things at people, they SHOULD be arrested.
    They should also have the book thrown at them.
    Unfortunately, this ended in tragedy.
    As I’ve said before, the truly sad part of this is that it could have been completely avoided by giving support to the sick woman and traveling with her to the rehab facility.
    Instead, she was left to travel on her own without any monitoring.
    Is that victim bashing? Perhaps, but it is also true.

  66. Anonymous says:

    Side note: Who assumed that she was a terrorist?
    I am still dumbfounded at how far people here are willing to stretch facts to fit their own agenda.
    At no point was it mentioned by anyone that she was suspected of being a terrorist.
    Not one employee contacted homeland security (which is what they are supposed to do if they suspect a terrorist). They called the cops on a person who was screaming, running around, and who had thrown things at other passengers.
    I refuse to believe that the US Airways people didn’t show compassion. I refuse to believe that the police didn’t start by asking her to calm down so they could sort it out. Police officers that I know talk all the time about the different ways they handle beligerent suspects. It starts by trying to calm the person down and talk to them. Since this woman was hysterical and resisted arrest, it leads me to believe that she was the reason she had to be cuffed, not some preconceived notion of terrorism or lack of compassion.
    Having worked as a bouncer in several bars, i can tell you that I have tried speaking to drunk women in the past that had gotten hysterical. One of them threw a pint glass full of long island ice tea at my face, then tried to attack me by punching and kicking me. Without hurting her, I spun her around and escorted her out the door with the help of another employee. We had to restrain her arms and carry her out because she was flailing so wildly, she had knocked drinks out of other customers hands and punched a sweet female regular in the eye by accident.
    Sometimes people behave terribly. Someone has to be able to prevent them from hurting other people.

  67. pshah says:

    @fejjnagaf: Ah… you were a bouncer… that wouldn’t have anything to do with your position here would it?

  68. pshah says:

    A women who needs her meds is not the same as drunk entitled and out of control BWA that you mentioned in the incident. And even you possibly cant compare the outcome in these two very different cases.

    Try to look at it from the victim’s point of view (with some compassion). What exactly did she do to deserve this.

  69. infinitysnake says:

    @catcherintheeye: Folks, you CANNOT kill yourself via strangulation. It is physiologically impossible. Hanging or suffocation (water, plastic), yes- but one cannot, cannot manually strangle themselves. The best even the most determined psychotic could manage is a temorary loss of conciousness.

  70. synergy says:

    If it’s true that the husband was on the phone and telling them that she was mentally unstable, maybe someone should’ve passed that on to the policemen and made sure one of them spoke to the husband to better assess the situation once she was detained. But no. They were apparently too busy to talk to the husband on the phone for a minute or two.

  71. jamar0303 says:

    Whoa, hold it. Earlier in the thread I noticed that someone said that she was turned away from the gate because she got there 8 minutes before departure. I thought boarding wasn’t closed until 5 minutes before departure for domestic flights… Oh wait, this is US Airways.

  72. Anonymous says:

    What “position here” are you speaking of?
    Are you now implying that I am stupid because I was a bouncer while attending school?
    Gotbaum WAS a drunken ‘BWA’, as you so eloquently put it. Did she need her meds? Probably. Did that factor in? Maybe. We can’t really know since the type of meds and what they were for aren’t particularly clear.
    I’m confused again – you say that a beligerent drunk deserves to be detained and would have been handled the way the police handled this woman – did you miss the part of the story that said she was beligerant and drunk?

    I’m not comparing the outcome of the two incidents (the one I described and this one) and never intended to. What I was comparing was the way people behave when they are drunk and beligerant, which this woman was.

    While I agree that she didn’t ‘deserve’ to die, I don’t see where you are going here. She was beligerant and drunk, was shouting, screaming, running up and down the airport, and threw something at other travelers. I think she deserved, 100%, to be arrested for disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and drunk in public. I lose compassion with each offense. Had she NOT been drunk and this was a meds issue, sure – I would see your point, but she WAS drunk, she WAS beligerant, and she WAS a danger to herself and others.
    This is true. But you can kill yourself by twisting the cuffs around in an attempt to escape.
    See this article that describes how such a thing might happen:

  73. Anonymous says:

    She was turned away because boarding had been complete, the jetway was closed and locked, the plane door was locked, and the jet was being backed out to begin lining up for take-off.
    That someone was wrong.

  74. infinitysnake says:

    @fejjnagaf: I’m no0t denying one can become entangled- not at all. But the recurring theme of suicide is irritating, if not downright ignorant. :-)

  75. Anonymous says:

    I hear you.
    The only plausible idea here is a mistake, not a suicide. Perhaps she got twisted and gave up, perhaps she couldn’t do anything to reverse being tangled, but the suicide argument is a bit off the wall.

  76. Rusted says:

    @BritBoy: Yes it does belong here. It is on topic.

  77. catcherintheeye says:

    @infinitysnake: I understand not being able to take two hands and strangle yourself, but wouldn’t a chain have the same effect as a noose…why wouldn’t I be able to wrap a chain around my neck, cut off my air flow and die?

  78. Veeber says:

    CNN just posted some security video

    She does seem to be out of control. I can total understand the need to restrain her, at least temporarily. I wonder if they felt the need to restrain her in the cell as well to reduce the chance of injury?

  79. Anonymous says:

    @Chris Vee:
    Thanks for posting that.
    I can only imagine how freaked out those people in the first segment were when they saw a woman running down the hall screaming at the top of her lungs that she wasn’t a terrorist…
    And there are obvious signs of her struggling against the police and she is clearly yelling as they escort her.

  80. thalia says:


    I never believe witness statements. We even tested this stuff out in psych class, say there’s a car accident that you witnessed and the driver had appeared to be driving safely. Casually mention to a few bystanders, “That guy was probably drunk” and sure enough, when the police arrive, almost all of the witnesses who heard you will swear to God they saw the driver swerving all over the place.

  81. Cleo says:

    But, as has been well reported, she DID HAVE A BOARDING PASS. It was issued as part of her ticket from New York. One presumes her luggage would also have been on that connecting flight. When she didn’t show up until four minutes after the half hour in advance boarding call (Was there one? Did she hear it? With her boarding pass in hand, would she think it applied to her?) the airline promptly sold her ticket to somebody else. She was so distraught that another passenger volunteered to give up his ticket for her, but the airline refused to accept that too, saying security prevented them from allowing a passenger to travel under somebody else’s name. So the airline is absolutely involved here in every possible way. I, for one, would have made exactly the same mistake and think my boarding pass reserved my seat on a connecting flight without any further effort on my part. In fact I’ve traveled fairly extensively, sometimes catching a connecting flight with only minutes to spare. If seat designations and boarding passes issued at the time of a ticket purchase for connecting flights are completely meaningless, then airlines should say so and consumers should be very well informed about this. Moreover, if the airline was unwilling to remove the passenger to whom they’d impropertly sold Mrs Gotbaum’s ticket, then they have taken complete hold of the situation, including making sure that those people intending to meet her were informed that she’d be late; insuring that her luggage was removed from the flight and THEN suggesting she take the next available flight or providing a shuttle for the short distance to her destination.