The American surgeon credited with developing the lifesaving Heimlich maneuver for choking victims has died. Family members said Henry Heimlich died early Saturday at a hospital in Cincinnati after suffering a heart attack days earlier. He was 96. The son of a social worker in New York state, Heimlich in 1974 was director of surgery at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, where he developed the emergency treatment that bears his name. It is used to help people who are incapacitated when their windpipes are blocked by food or other obstructions. Rescuers applying the first-aid procedure reach around a victim from behind, abruptly and forcefully squeezing the abdomen above the navel. The procedure generates a strong air flow from the lungs, strong enough to expel food or other obstructions from the windpipe, preventing suffocation. The maneuver is credited with saving thousands of lives. Heimlich also developed a Vietnam-era battlefield device that prevents gases and fluids from accumulating in the lungs of the wounded. The chest drain valve bearing his name is still used worldwide for patients undergoing thoracic surgery. A family statement also noted Heimlich's World War II role as a U.S. Navy physician who voluntarily worked behind enemy lines in the Gobi Desert in China.