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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Press Conference for Governor Don Carcieri

Aired February 22, 2003 - 07:17   ET

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

(BREAKING NEWS, 07:15)
HIEDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We have the governor of Rhode Island now addressing the press. Let's go to that.

GOV. DON CARCIERI, RHODE ISLAND: OK, good morning.

There are a few things we're trying to update you on this morning. First of all, as you're all aware, the site last night was secured. Most of the work has been completed. There is no really significant additional information to give you this morning from the site. There are -- we're pretty well convinced there are no additional bodies there.

So there will be some more investigative work ongoing probably for the balance of the day, maybe beyond that. We'll play that by ear a little bit to see what the teams need.

We gave you some information yesterday that we're -- we think we might have been off base on, as we've gotten more details. I had said that there were 10 people that had been transferred to Massachusetts hospitals in the confusion.

Right now, our -- we've confirmed that 19 people have been transferred to four -- actually five Massachusetts hospitals, Brigham and Women's, Mass General, Shriners, which is associated there, UMass- Worcester, and St. Luke's. So there are 19 as opposed to the 10 that I had reported yesterday.

As best we can tell right now, the last person was transferred yesterday afternoon approximately 4:00.

Of those 19, there were two, and still are two Jane Does. We're hopeful that we will have positive identification on those soon. They have elements of identification that need to be verified. Right now we cannot say that that identification is for certain, but we're very hopeful that those two Jane Does will be identified early today.

There were to our knowledge no additional fatalities overnight at any of the hospitals here in Rhode Island. We are calling right now just to make certain of the five hospitals in Massachusetts that we have had no additional fatalities.

As I said last night, there are teams coming in. We have 25 people that are coming in this morning, throughout the balance of the day are coming in that will assist in a variety of things, all focused initially on the identification process and getting this done as quickly as we can.

There'll be a team meeting at noontime to assess whether we need additional resources and a protocol for how to do this in the most expeditious manner.

Also, overnight two more bodies have been positively identified. As I said last night, there were seven, two more in the course of the night, so now nine people have been identified. Those families, we believe, have been notified. We're double-checking to make sure the families have been notified.

We will be having another press conference briefing at noontime. I'll tell you where in a moment. At that time, after we've made certain that all the families have been met with on those nine, those names will be released.

What we would ask all of you is please, please, when the names have been released, respect the privacy of those families. As you know, this is a very, very difficult time. The emotions on the parts of all the families and family members are just distraught, as any of us would be. So please, all I ask you to do is respect their privacy, and be guided by that.

We are hopeful, as I said last night, that there are still a few more that will be identified and can be identified using visual means. And that that can take place, again, fairly quickly.

Once we get beyond that, which I don't think our numbers have changed too much, that that'll mean that approximately 80 bodies that are going to take either dental records or fingerprinting or possibly DNA.

Right now, we are putting out a major effort to make sure we've got the information necessary. I would reiterate to the families, and as I know the Red Cross is doing, that we need the dental information for each of their loved ones so that we can make certain we've gotten to those dentists and gotten the information that we need so that these teams can go to work.

My understanding, that would be the fastest way to identify a number of the bodies. Fingerprinting will take a little bit longer because, as you can appreciate, the fingerprints may be resident anywhere in the country.

I know the biggest question on most people's minds, how long this is going to take. And we do not -- I wish I could say absolutely with these additional teams coming in. There's just no way of knowing right now.

I think our feeling is that a large percentage of these bodies should be able to be identified, if we can get the dental records, you know, in a reasonable period of time. By that I mean several days. We're not talking, hopefully, for most of the bodies, weeks. And if it requires DNA, as you all know, that's going to be a more lengthy process. Lastly, the 462-7111 number is going to stay open throughout this period, until we've got every person absolutely identified. I should say that we've had over 7,500 calls to that number in just the last day, day and a half. So it's serving its purpose of being a point for people to make contact and get information.

I think that about covers everything we have. As I said, we're going to have the next briefing at noontime. That'll be over at the Joint Information Center. You'll all get the directions to that. It's across from the Pastore Complex on Reservoir Avenue.

But we will be there noontime, and we will release the names of the nine that have been identified, assuming the families have been contacted. And then if we have any further information for you on any identifications, any changes in the in the resources we require, we will update you at that time, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

CARCIERI: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... on the site, when you talked about identifying bodies (UNINTELLIGIBLE), families have to be brought in to view the remains, is that it? And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some families wasn't there, I mean, how's it working?

CARCIERI: No, I don't know, Laura. I think what they're doing mostly is using photographs and other information, you know, markings on bodies and so forth. To my knowledge, I don't know whether, Helen, whether any families have actually been brought to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coroner's office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: Yes. So there have been, to our knowledge, Laurie, no family members actually asked to view bodies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, speak to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these families (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: Right now -- yes, that need is very great. I've been there, as I know Lieutenant Governor Fogarty has, and Senator Reed and a number of us have been over there to meet with the families. Red Cross is there. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I stopped counting. There were countless clergy members, there are grief counselors, there's all kinds of support there at the Crown Plaza for the families.

So we're very conscious of that. And the effort, as I said last night, the effort of the whole community, the outpouring of love and concern and support is -- you know, it's kind of overwhelming. So it's -- we think -- this is a very, very difficult time. There's little you can say or do for people that are just distraught over not knowing what's happened to a loved on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, you know, can you say how the weather may impact the investigation, if it starts to rain today?

CARCIERI: Well, we're hopeful, as I said, we're hopeful that by, you know, late this morning before the weather gets really bad, most of the -- what we're looking for on the side will have been completed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARCIERI: But if not, if not, weather will, you know, be a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if, in fact -- I know that they told me about a whole thing that overnight they'd be able to find some more personal belongings to -- for some of the individuals would help. Do you know of any of that kind of evidence (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the site overnight (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: Yes, there has been some. How much, I'm not sure, but I know they have gotten some.

Chuck?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, of those bodies identified so far, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) smoke inhalation?

CARCIERI: I don't know that. What we're doing with -- I should say, because somebody's asked this question, our principal focus right now is to expedite the identification. The autopsy, we're putting sort of secondary, because our sense is families want to know, and we've got to try and provide that information as soon as possible.

So cause of death kind of autopsies will be secondary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One follow-up, just one follow-up (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Any -- can you give us a sense of possible (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in terms of possible charges?

CARCIERI: No. I don't even want to speculate on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, yesterday you mentioned that up to 350 people may have been in the club over, well above 300 occupancy limit. What is the -- your latest count on that? And how (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARCIERI: Well, we -- what I'm saying is, what I said last night. We won't know exactly. There's no way of knowing exactly. What we're doing is piecing together fragments of those people that have come forward who we don't believe landed at a hospital or are being counted anywhere, they just went home.

Add to that the people that we know were transferred to hospitals, add to that the fatalities, and you come up with a number that exceeds 300. We don't know that absolutely. And we're -- it's impossible, sort of, to confirm that people have come forward. Did anybody count them anywhere? Did they even just show up at an emergency room to check in and then left? And we don't know all of that. So... (CROSSTALK)

CARCIERI: No. No, I have no idea how many tickets were sold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Chicago, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) happened to the bodies (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nightclub. Why doesn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE) four days later (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARCIERI: Yes. The -- I don't know the absolute answer to that in terms of -- to my knowledge there was no disciplined effort to take a look at facilities in operation here in the state where we might have something similar. What I said last night, and I don't know if you were here, is that we're going to undertake that.

Now, I've asked the fire marshal to give directions to all the deputy fire marshals around the state to identify what we're calling, you know, high-risk targets, those kinds of buildings that are old, cramped, and maybe not properly, let's say, sprinklered and all the kinds of things you would want.

So we're going to do that now. I don't believe anything was done prior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, do you expect that the noon press conference (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, are you going to have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARCIERI: All right. Well, there is a list, as I said. With the exception of the two Jane Does in the Massachusetts hospitals, all of those people that were at hospitals have been identified, and a list exists. That list, we haven't decided and we haven't discussed whether to make that public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: To the best of our knowledge, it's still approximately the 25 that I said last night. We've got -- we have a little bit of a problem trying to communicate with the Massachusetts hospitals, the five of them, to make sure we're getting current information there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a breakdown of which -- how many people are at which hospitals (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: Yes, they do, I don't have it with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, you said 25... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in regard to identifying the bodies, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there were perhaps some cars in the parking lots that you were looking at. Are you still looking at those cars (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and can the family help in any way?

CARCIERI: Well, I think what they were doing was, based on the cars there and the registrations, trying to track those back and see if in -- they could identify some people that were not accounted for anywhere. That's still ongoing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we know. What would you like to see happen at that site, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Should a memorial be built (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: Well, you know, to be honest with you, Laura, I haven't...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you haven't thought about it...

CARCIERI: ... thought that far ahead...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARCIERI: There's lots of possibilities, that's -- and I would be open to any of those kinds of things. But right now...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question.

CARCIERI: ... we're just trying to focus on getting this done.

Mark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), do we know what that soundproofing was made of that seemed to go up in flames so quickly?

CARCIERI: I don't know. Some of that is being analyzed, Mark, OK? But I don't have an answer for you.

OK? We'll see you at noontime, and hopefully we'll have some more information.

Thank you.

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