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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Police Officer Near Refinery Fire

Aired February 21, 2003 - 10:46   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to try one more time with Dave Kendrick from the Woodbridge Township Police -- Dave, can you hear me better this time?
DAVE KENDRICK, WOODBRIDGE TOWNSHIP POLICE: Yes, Daryn, I can.

KAGAN: OK, great. What can you tell us about what's taking place?

KENDRICK: Right now, I am just looking out the back door, and there is huge columns of black smoke rising up into the air.

KAGAN: Where are you in relation to this fire?

KENDRICK: I am about three miles -- west of where the fire actually is right now.

KAGAN: So, are you on the Jersey side?

KENDRICK: Yes, I am in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey.

KAGAN: OK. Do you know anything about this facility?

KENDRICK: No. I know it's directly across -- we have a Hess refinery which is directly across from it on the water.

KAGAN: Did you hear any kind of -- or feel any kind of explosion about 40 minutes ago?

KENDRICK: Yes. I heard the explosion, and the whole house shook, and immediately went to the door and looked out and seen the smoke start to rise.

KAGAN: And was your first thought that it must be coming from something at the refinery?

KENDRICK: Yes, because a lot of refineries are over there, so they are basically the same direction that would be at.

KAGAN: I think one thing that's difficult to do from television is get a perspective of just how big this is.

KENDRICK: Oh, it is just a tremendous plume of smoke that is going hundreds and hundreds of feet into the air. At one point, I could actually see the flames from over here, too, but I can't see them anymore. LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Officer Kendrick, this is Leon Harris. I have got a question that just popped in my head from watching this. Did you, as an officer, have you all been briefed at all about any threats to any of these facilities that are there, these refineries?

KENDRICK: Of course, we get regular alerts.

HARRIS: Were you aware of any that may actually have been in effect right now?

KENDRICK: No, not at this current time, no.

HARRIS: Is that a suspicion of yours?

KENDRICK: Whenever anything happens anymore, it is always a suspicion.

HARRIS: Yes, I would imagine so. Now, can you tell us at all whether or not -- from what you know about these facilities if this is all propane, or if it is all oil or anything like that?

KENDRICK: Well, most of them are all oil. I mean, there are some other liquid gas and other stuff like that there also, but most of them are oil.

HARRIS: OK. Considering what your suspicions may be and with the fact that the station is living under a heightened security alert at this particular point, is there any plan that you are aware of that would secure any of these other facilities right now?

KENDRICK: I would imagine that's in the works right now. I'm not actually working at the moment, but I imagine that's in the process right now.

HARRIS: Do you have a police radio at your home?

KENDRICK: Yes.

HARRIS: Have you been listening to it, and have you heard anything you can tell us about?

KENDRICK: Nothing I can -- I'd let you know right now at the moment. Just that they're controlling the traffic, and keeping people away from the shores lines over here in New Jersey.

KAGAN: Another eyewitness was talking about how close are homes to this area. Are you familiar with that?

KENDRICK: The homes in New Jersey are -- they are across the water, and there are some that are basically right on the water's edge there.

KAGAN: But what about Staten Island on that side?

KENDRICK: Yes, I'm not really familiar with that part of the plant on the other side of -- the other side of the state line. HARRIS: Can you tell us -- based upon what you've been hearing, if you have heard anything about this at all -- whether or not there's a plan to just let this burn itself out, or if they're actually -- if they are concerned about it being under control or out of control at this point?

KENDRICK: Yes, I would have no idea whatsoever about that.

HARRIS: Got you. Understood. Understood. Can you -- can you smell any of this by now from your vantage point?

KENDRICK: You are getting like an oily smell in the air.

HARRIS: What would you be telling residents to do about that?

KENDRICK: I would imagine the best thing would be to stay inside and keep the doors and windows shut.

HARRIS: Is that what you're doing right now?

KENDRICK: No, I am out on my deck talking to you watching the smoke.

KAGAN: You have got to follow your own advice, Officer Kendrick.

HARRIS: Well, listen, we don't want to get you in any danger here. But we sure do appreciate the insight here. As a matter of fact, since we have you on right now, if there are any other residents of Staten Island or the immediate area who are listening right now, what would you tell them to do about this?

KENDRICK: Yes, I would basically keep your ear to the news for changes, and also keep indoors.

HARRIS: About what about time did you hear the explosion? I just want to nail that down some more.

KENDRICK: It was like between like 10:00 and a quarter after.

HARRIS: About 10:00 and a quarter after. That's what we heard earlier, as well. At the time, did you have any idea how big it was?

KENDRICK: No, not really.

KAGAN: We're getting some reports now. I am just cruising the wire services here and they're saying that that plume of smoke is going as high as a mile up in the air. Also -- and maybe, officer, you can help us with this in terms of location. They're saying it occurred at the edge of Port Mobil -- or is it Mobile -- Port Mobil near the out bridge crossing that links the island to Woodbridge, New Jersey in the southwestern part of Staten Island.

KENDRICK: Actually, the outer bridge crosses over into Birth Ambway (ph), which is our neighbor.

KAGAN: And in terms of the smoke going up that high? KENDRICK: Oh, it is a tremendous plume. Unfortunately, it is heading north towards -- fortunately for us, but it is heading north towards the city.

KAGAN: Yes, and we had that picture -- I don't know if we can put that picture up again where you can see what it looks like in Manhattan already. There you go. I don't know if -- you're outside. You can't see the picture.

KENDRICK: Yes, I can. I can see the TV from where I am standing.

KAGAN: That's got to be so eerie. It is just bringing back images of 9/11 to see the smoke and the big plume of smoke over Manhattan like that.

KENDRICK: I can tell you, from where I stand on my deck, it is a very similar plume. Unfortunately, 9/11, it was based in New York City heading just the opposite direction, but a very similar situation.

HARRIS: You know, officer, what I'd like to know is -- do you think there's any necessity to evacuate people out of this area?

KENDRICK: Well, I'm sure the emergency management offices in New York City are working on that. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't know.

HARRIS: OK. So you wouldn't know about that immediate area then?

KENDRICK: No.

HARRIS: All right.

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