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Special Event

Seton Hall University Officials, Essex County Prosecutor Hold Press Conference on Fatal Dorm Fire

Aired January 19, 2000 - 9:25 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you to Seton Hall University, the site of a fatal dormitory fire.

Right, we just were hearing from New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... this terrible tragedy. There's not much you can say at this time. We're glad we're people of faith. And, you know, the mystery of God's words, God's work with us is always a great mystery. But, please God, that the -- this tragedy will not affect too many lives and will not be a -- will not be something we cannot live through because of the faith that we have. That's really all I can say right now. Monsignor Robert Sheeran, the president of the university, is here and I would like to let him say a few words.

MONSIGNOR ROBERT SHEERAN, PRESIDENT, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Archbishop.

It's very difficult to find any human words to say at this time. This is a heartbreaking tragedy for Seton Hall University, for our families, for all the Seton Hall family, for the larger family of the state. We thank so many people for being with us. Many of us who live on campus were there at 5:00 this morning, and we thank you for being with us. We thank you for the support of so many people. Words cannot express what's happening to us now, so thank you all for being with us.

GOV. CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), NEW JERSEY: Prosecutor Campolo.

DON CAMPOLO, ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR: I'll attempt to give you some preliminary facts and I'll ask your indulgence because, as you can well understand, this tragedy is under active investigation right now and all of the facts which I'm about to give you are preliminary.

Our information is that the fire was reported at approximately 4:30 a.m. It was immediately responded to by the South Orange Fire Department. When they arrived at the scene, they determined that the third-floor common area was involved and that two individuals were found immediately in that area. They were deceased. Down a corridor, another individual was found in a room and CPR was administered, but -- however, it was unsuccessful. The fire was contained to that third-floor common area. However, smoke and heat traveled throughout that floor.

In terms of the injured, the university and medical authorities are doing their best to determine and finalize information as to their identities, obviously pending notification of their families.

And those are all the details which I'm prepared to released at this point.

WHITMAN: Questions?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Were they all students?

QUESTION: Prosecutor, there have been reports from several students that fire hoses that had been taken off, disconnected were found in a pile in the lobby, that they had been disconnected before the break. Do you have any information about that?

CAMPOLO: I have no information at this point.

QUESTION: Is everyone accounted for?

CAMPOLO: I believe so.

QUESTION: Are the three dead students?

CAMPOLO: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Are the three dead people students?

CAMPOLO: Three.

QUESTION: They're all students?

QUESTION: Are they students at Seton Hall?

CAMPOLO: We don't know.

QUESTION: What are the laws in the county and in the state concerning sprinklers in dormatories at universities -- public and/or private?

CAMPOLO: I'd rather not comment on that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how it started?

QUESTION: Were there sprinklers in this building?

CAMPOLO: Not prepared to discuss that at this time.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea yet how this might have started? Any preliminaries?

CAMPOLO: No, that's under active investigation right now.

QUESTION: Are you labelling it suspicious?

CAMPOLO: No.

QUESTION: What's the condition of those currently hospitalized?

CAMPOLO: I believe it varies. I don't have all of those details right now.

QUESTION: Any idea of the range of conditions in terms of is anyone critical or anything -- any information like that?

CAMPOLO: I don't have that information.

QUESTION: What is the breakdown of inhaling versus burning wounds?

WHITMAN: Three that are critical.

CAMPOLO: Excuse me, there -- I'm told that there are three who are critical right now.

QUESTION: Prosecutor, the common area -- is it a lounge or...

KAGAN: We've been listening to a news conference from Seton Hall University in New Jersey which is the site of a fatal dorm fire earlier this morning. It started or at least was first reported around 4:30 inthe morning, believed contained to the third-floor area where three students were found dead. The problem beyond that, that smoke and heat spread throughout the floor and the building, and as many as 25 others besides the three dead were injured, the prosecutor there saying that he doesn't believe at this time that the fire started -- that the cause is suspicious in nature.

We'll bring you more on this throughout the morning.

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