The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a plethora of fake news on social media. A recent example of it is a viral video of a person jumping off a tall building. It is being claimed that the person in the video was an Italian billionaire who committed suicide after his whole family died due to COVID-19.
US-based online channel GoldMyne TV tweeted this video along with the caption: Italian Billionaire commits suicide by throwing himself from the 20th floor of his tower after his entire family was wiped out by Coronavirus.
(Warning: This is a disturbing video. User discretion is advised)
Several other users have also been sharing this video with the same message in Hindi and other Indian languages.
Earlier, the same video had gone viral with the claim that it was of a man from the US who committed suicide after he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
What is the truth, then?
To know the truth of this video, we performed a reverse image search on key-frames of the video. The results showed that the video is available on the internet for the past many years.
We also noticed that the same video was used in different news reports with different claims. Some reported that it was from Indonesia, while others said it was from Ghana. We could not find any authentic news or conclusive evidence to support either claim.
The video can be traced back to August 2015. A Facebook page had uploaded the longer version of this incident.
Upon reviewing the video closely we made the following observations:
- The traffic on the road is normal. If the video is really from Italy, how can it be possible during the lockdown?
- The road-signs are in English. Aren’t they supposed to be in Italian?
- “Dial 911” is written on the police car. But the emergency police contact in Italy is 112.
- 215-232-2000 is written on a passing car (seen in the longer video). A simple Google search can tell that it was a contact number of PHL Cab, a Philadelphia based taxi service.
With the above clues, we narrowed down our research scope. We searched for incidences of jumping off a building that occurred in the Philadelphia area before August 2015. The results yield some news reports that match the description of the viral video we are looking for.
Phylli Voice and Breaking 911 reported on May 2nd, 2015, that an individual had jumped from the balcony of the 28-floor Embassy Suites Hotel in Philadelphia. The dead person was a 37-year-old white male. An eyewitness had shot this video which later went viral on social media.
A few days later, Philly Mag website published a report identifying the dead man as Sean McGrellis from Williamstown, New Jersey. He was a local church musician, specializing in Catholic masses.
But how can we establish the fact that the viral video shows Sean McGrellis’s suicide?
We looked for the Embassy Suites Hotel on Google Maps. Hovering around it using Street View, we found a spot from where the viral video might have been shot. We can see the same city-scrapes in the embedded map below.
We also matched the buildings seen in the video with the buildings that appear in the Street View. The comparison image given below makes it certain that the video was shot outside the Embassy Suites Hotel in Philadelphia. Also, The timing of the incidence (May 2015) and the availability of the video on the internet (since 2015) overlap each other. Hence, the viral video actually shows Sean McGrellis jumping off the hotel building.
From the above evidence, we can safely conclude that the viral video is not from Italy nor does it have anything to do with coronavirus. The video is of a man from the US who had committed suicide in Philadelphia back in 2015.
Title:An Old Video from the US is Falsely being Shared as footage of an Italian Billionaire Committing Suicide Due To CoronavirusFact Check By: Mayur Deokar