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Press Conference Update on the Investigation into the Boston Bombings; Live Coverage of Press Conference from Mass General Hospital

Aired April 16, 2013 - 10:00   ET


GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, more than the evidence is the extraordinary cooperation among these law enforcement agencies as the mayor and others have said. At the federal, state and local levels and indeed from the region, we have an unprecedented level of law enforcement support and engagement here and they're working very, very well and very seamlessly with each other under the leadership of the FBI. And that gives me a lot of comfort and it should give the public comfort as well.

Over here, yes.

REPORTER: Anything that helps you understand the level of complexity of the device itself, the level of sophistication or the origin of the materials that would help understand if it's a domestic source or international source?

PATRICK: I think -- I think I know what you're getting in. Let me turn it over to Rick who I think is not going to comment.

RICK DESLAURIERS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thank you, Governor. I can't comment on that aspect of that. What I think is important to say and what I'd like to, be on behalf of the Boston JTTF here today is say that there's no known imminent physical threat at any location where we might be conducting investigative activity right now. I want to put that out to the American public, to the citizens of the city of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

REPORTER: Tell us first of all if you know anything about the nature of the device and secondly, can you comment on the fact that there had been a sweep of the area and how is it that two devices this powerful could have alluded that?

DESLAURIERS: I'm not going to be able to comment on that, on the nature of the device right now.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) are they in custody right now under guard at a local hospital?

DESLAURIERS: No, I'm not going to say who it might or might not be in custody right now.

REPORTER: Can you confirm that (INAUDIBLE) under custody and is looking for has found a second person who is a roommate? DESLAURIERS: David, what I can say is ICE is a key component of our Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force. They are active with us right now and are interviewing witnesses with us and assisting us integrally with this investigation.

REPORTER: There has been a lot of talk of photos. There was a photo of a man standing on the roof in the background.

DESLAURIERS: We are processing a lot of digital photographic evidence right now as several speakers have said including the governor we encourage the continued submission of any graphic evidence that could lead to value. I can't comment on specific tips or leads right now.

REPORTER: Can you tell us about --

REPORTER: You said earlier --

REPORTER: Can you tell us about the surveillance cameras in the area? Are you able to use those and how they are helpful and anything about what you are seeing on them?

DESLAURIERS: Karen, I think Commissioner Davis can probably speak best about surveillance cameras in the area. I think we're processing all the digital photographic evidence we can as quickly as possible with resources from FBI headquarters in Quantico. That is a priority of the investigation right now. I'd like Commissioner Davis to speak about the video cameras.

ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Rick. It's a basic investigative protocol at this point in time for us to secure all of the video this that's in the area. Even as we were removing victims yesterday, officers were assigned to go into the local establishments and secure those videos.

There are a large number of them so there's a logistics issue right now. We are working with the FBI. They're sending special teams to process that information. It's our intention to go through every frame of every video that we have to determine exactly who was in the area. This is probably one of the most well-photographed areas in the country yesterday

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as people coming and going from the city for work, obviously very difficult to move around Copley Square. Are you asking people to stay away? Is that the best recommendation, or do you want people to come and go?

DAVIS: We want people to come and go. We want you to live your life. We want you to be vigilant. There's no reason to not come into the city, but we do have a threat, and we are working diligently to try to reduce that threat.

We want you to go about your business. Give us a little room in the Copley Square area. Be patient with us there as we process this scene. But we are trying to turn it back to the businesses and to the community as quickly as we can after that evidence is collected.

REPORTER: You may have 100,000 pictures out there. What do you want people to look for?

DAVIS: That's a good question actually. What we would like is forwarding any photos that you have around the time of the blast and particularly in that area. But also tell us what time those photos were taken so we don't have to go through the electronic signatures we have some data as to when the photos were taken.

Naturally photos taken close to the blast, just before, just after, those will be critical and we'll prioritize those. But give us the photos and as much information that can help the investigators move forward.

REPORTER: -- the event as part of the preparation that the devices exploded (INAUDIBLE).

DAVIS: There's no evidence of that.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- marathon as part of this area prototype?

DAVIS: There is an EOD sweep that was done. There were two of them done that morning, one was done early in the morning and a second one was done an hour before the first runners came across.

Those two EOD sweeps did not turn up any evidence. But because there is unrestricted access to the race course, simply because it is 28 miles long, people can come and go and bring items in and out.

REPORTER: Commissioner, do you have any evidence that the three people who are confirmed to be dead all thought to be victims or could one perhaps be the perpetrator or one of the perpetrators?

DAVIS: They're all victims as far as I know.


DAVIS: I'm sorry. No. We don't have any information on that.

REPORTER: Could you give us an idea of the breakdown of the impact of the two separate bombs in terms of casualties, numbers?

DAVIS: We have a number of 176 casualties that presented at area hospitals. That's including hospitals on the south shore so not just in Boston, 176 is the best number I have right now. Seventeen of those individuals are critical at this point in time, three fatalities.

REPORTER: In terms of two bombs, though -- (INAUDIBLE).

DAVIS: No one is in custody, right. No one is in custody.

REPORTER: You said there's an individual responsible for this. Does that mean you're ruling out any groups responsible for that?


REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) DESLAURIERS: As an ongoing investigation, our investigation will certainly not be confined very likely to the city limits of Boston. It would extend out to the Eastern Massachusetts area. This will be a worldwide investigation.

We will go where the evidence and the leads take us. We will go to ends of the earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice.

REPORTER: Do you know the point in your investigation where you will be receiving any assistance?

DESLAURIERS: I can't comment on that aspect of the investigation right now. Certainly we were using full capacities of the FBI to its fullest worldwide extent.


DESLAURIERS: I think the best way I can address that question is what I previously said, that we are interviewing a variety of witnesses right now in a variety of locations and that is ongoing. That is the most I can say about that right now.

REPORTER: What led you to that address?

DESLAURIERS: Again, that would be commenting on specific leads and investigative activity that might compromise our investigation so I really can't comment on that.

REPORTER: Was it helpful? Did you learn anything from that? Is there anything to advance the investigation?

DESLAURIERS: I would just say that we are continuing, we have a multitude of resources on the street, the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force, many components of which are with me today, are out on the street right now conducting all logical investigation as quickly as possible.

REPORTER: So it was part of it?

DESLAURIERS: I would say we're just -- we are out on the street in a variety of areas both in the city of Boston and outside the city of Boston conducting an investigation where the leads and evidence take us.


DESLAURIERS: I was not aware of any threat information prior to the marathon.

REPORTER: Aware of any since?

DESLAURIERS: As I mentioned earlier, I'm not aware of any physical threat information right now from any unexploded devices or any further devices. I'm not aware of any information and to the best of my knowledge there is no imminent physical threat anywhere associated with this investigation.


REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) what would be safe outside the Boston area?

TOM MENINO, MAYOR OF BOSTON: I'd say to the folks watching us that we have a city that's resilient, a city that's working together. Law enforcement is working on this issue since it started and we need cooperation from the public.

Folks out there know that something's going on. Give it to the FBI, the Boston police, whatever law enforcement you want to give it to you. We're a resilient city. We'll get by this. It's one incident that will not mock the city's history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, thank you, guys.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the press conference is ending now. We got an expected type of debrief from the governor, FBI, district attorney representatives, local law enforcement. Headlines for you? Well, the district attorney called it what it is, an act of cowardice. They said that this is an act of an ongoing investigation highly coordinated, that the White House and all federal authorities are stepping up and giving them the resources that they need.

There was a new injury number that we've heard, 176; 17 people still in the hospital, still with critical injuries. Now, that can be a range of things, means that people are still in there fighting for what could be their lives. That's not to overdramatize it.

Again, almost all of you are not privy to the pictures of injuries that we saw yesterday coming out of those explosions. Had you seen them, you would understand why we say that just because somebody is injured and in the hospital doesn't mean that they're out of the woods.

That number, 176. The confirmation that this city is pull together, that the authorities are pulling together, that the resiliency of people who live in Boston is being evidenced, something that was pointed out that was not a throw-away statement is that one of the first things that was done here was to take time to recognize the response and the first responders and those who volunteered yesterday. Why?

Well, that's how you survive a situation like this. It can go either way in a moment of crisis. First responders stepping up, volunteers coming in, triaging, nurses there to help with dehydration becoming trauma actors there and taking care of business, helping people survive, stopping loss of life. That's what we saw yesterday.

That is the key to surviving an event. The perimeter that's been set, they are trying to collapse the crime scene as quickly as possible. They asked for indulgence on behalf of media to let investigators do their job. They say it will take several days at least. It's active and ongoing, of course.

There was discussion about the risk assessment before the marathon. Now, remember, any event like this preceding it, there's a risk assessment done by JTTF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force. It's done in coordination with local police and authorities to figure out the best way to prepare for an event. That would have been done here.

It is not made public, but it is fairly specific. That's why they say there was no credible threat beforehand. But it also is a window into how they prepare, which leads to the suggestion about, well, how did these bombs get where they were eventually, massive event, sweeps were done.

Were there gaps? Were there opportunities taken? Is that a window into what type of information the individual or individuals who did this must have had to do it successfully? Those are the types of questions that were raised.

Also a lot of assurance given that this investigation is moving forward. They asked the public and media to give all pictures and video that they have. They have hotlines. We'll have them on the web site for you.

As we finish one press conference, we're preparing for another one. Am I right in saying that? Tell me control room. I believe that we want to go to Mass General, the second prong of this story that we're following, the people who are fighting to keep their health in the hospital.

Press conference right now, let's listen in.


DR. GEORGE VELMAHOS, CHIEF OF TRAUMA SURGERY, MASS. GENERAL HOSP.: -- admitted to the intensive care unit, but overall we're very pleased with the results as they are right now. Eight patients are in more severe conditions than the rest, and they have undergone major operations, predominantly, unfortunately, amputations because of the devastating effects of the bombs. Many of them have severe wounds, mostly in the lower part of their body, wounds related to the blast effect of the bomb as well as small metallic fragments that entered their body: pellets, shrapnel, nails, that these bombs had. And some of them have additional injuries we're addressing.

Again, I'm happy to report at this point that the patients are safe (ph) but are in rather stable condition and thank God they're all alive.


VELMAHOS: Yes, there are a variety of sharp objects that we found in their body, probably this bomb had multiple metallic fragments in them and we -- we removed pellets and nails.

REPORTER: Is it stuff that could have come from the environment or is it concentrated enough to lead you to conclude that that came from the bomb.

VELMAHOS: I think they came from the bomb, although I cannot be exactly sure.

REPORTER: How many amputations have you performed and how many more are planned?

VELMAHOS: At this point, if I have my numbers right, we have performed four amputations and there are two more limbs that are at risk, but I hope that we will save those legs.


VELMAHOS: Yes, they are in intensive care. They are in critical condition. But at this point we have stabilized their vital signs and their hemodynamic situation is under control.

REPORTER: What are their injuries, can you describe what has placed them in such critical condition?

VELMAHOS: Most of the injuries were, again, lower extremity major injuries. From these injuries they bled a lot. We controlled the bleeding rather rapidly, but certainly they lost a lot of blood and that created d physiologic problems.


REPORTER: Do you have foreign nationals (INAUDIBLE) the nationality of the people you treat (ph)?

VELMAHOS: as far as I know, all of them are Americans.

REPORTER: Can you tell us an age range, doctor, the age range of your patients?

VELMAHOS: The younger patient so far was 28 years old and the older patient was 71 years old.


VELMAHOS: Most of the patients that are in the intensive care unit are still intubated and therefore cannot be interviewed.

REPORTER: What can you (ph) tell us about their emotional state and that of their loved ones?

VELMAHOS: It's obviously an extremely sad day for all of us, but even more so for the patients and for their relatives. I had the pleasure of interacting with many of the relatives, and obviously they're shattered by the events. We are offering emotional support and we've pulled all our resources in order to support these patients not only for their disease but also for their emotional status.

REPORTER: Has everyone been identified?

VELMAHOS: At this point, everybody has been identified. REPORTER: Doctor, you talk about injuries to the lower extremities. Is it unusual to have such a concentration of injuries to the lower extremities like that in a blast, or would there be more upper body, head and (INAUDIBLE)?

VELMAHOS: It's not unusual. This bomb obviously was placed probably low on the ground, and therefore lower extremity injuries are to be expected.

REPORTER: And there was no internal bleeding? Yesterday we heard there might be internal problems.

VELMAHOS: There are on a few patients some internal problems that we're still working up. I don't have further information on this one.

REPORTER: Are all patients conscious, or are any unconscious still?

VELMAHOS: Some -- most of the patients are conscious, but we do have patients who are medically sedated in order to alleviate the pain at this point and therefore we don't have a full evaluation of their mental status yet.

REPORTER: Doctor, did you screen for biological or radiation issues with these patients?

VELMAHOS: It doesn't appear that we have any issue with that at this point.

REPORTER: You mentioned that there are complications from the blood loss. What are those complications?

VELMAHOS: The complications from the blood loss is that the heart made to compensate and multiply (ph) their organs in the human body may be driven into failure because of blood loss. But we were very rapid in replacing the lost blood, and I think that for the most part we've saved patients from these problems.

REPORTER: Were these (ph) runners, or are they spectators (ph) ? Can you give any sort of estimation (INAUDIBLE?

VELMAHOS: I don't think that any of them were runners. I think they were all spectators.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: That's correct. We did treat some runners, but we have not included -- those -- the three patients that I said we received from the marathon but they were not traumatically injured. One was observed overnight and the other were treated and released.

REPORTER: Has anyone talked to you about what happened? What they saw?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Not to me in the emergency department. George?

VELMAHOS: No, we haven't had any more information unfortunately. The teams were extremely busy and concentrated on providing care last night. And we tried to focus on that and do nothing else but that. REPORTER: Doctor, as the investigators try to conduct their investigation, do they have to clear it with you before they speak with patients?

VELMAHOS: Well, we are always there by the patients and we make sure that they do not suffer unnecessarily at this early point. So we are all in communication to make sure that the patients can talk only when they can really talk.

REPORTER: Can you tell us how many are medically sedated?


REPORTER: Can you tell us how many are medically sedated?

VELMAHOS: I believe there must be six or eight at this point. The last time that I saw the patients was about an hour ago, and depending on what has happened to two of them, it's between six and eight.

REPORTER: What is the prognosis for those six or eight, doctor?

VELMAHOS: I think the prognosis will be probably okay. I think that we've stabilized these patients well. They have stopped bleeding. There are still things to be done, but I really hope that the outcome will be optimal.

REPORTER: Is there any more loss of life?

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) to leave? What is the earliest time you expect (INAUDIBLE).

VELMAHOS: I think the first patients may actually be ready to be released in a few days, but this is too early to predict that.

REPORTER: Have you ever seen anything like this before?

VELMAHOS: To that extent, no.

REPORTER: In terms of severity or quantity?

VELMAHOS: In terms of quantity.

REPORTER: There were four amputations, those were four separate patients, correct?

VELMAHOS: Yes, correct.

REPORTER: How is your staff doing? Are you well staffed or have you had people come in on overtime?

VELMAHOS: We were very well staffed, and we were extremely proud of the resources that the hospital placed on this event. Quite frankly, it was one of the proudest moments in my life when we went there in the middle of this mayhem, I saw endless doctors coming from all over MGH to offer their help in a very, very organized fashion. So we absolutely had no problem with staffing. UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: I would also add that the timing -- some of the physicians and nurses work from 7:00 to 3:00 and then 3:00 to 11:00 on the evening shift and of course the day shift all volunteered and said we'll stay here as long as needed. So that helped us out as well.

REPORTER: And of the amputees, how many were traumatic amputees versus amputees in the hospital?

VELMAHOS: Almost all of them had such severe trauma in their lower extremity that it was beyond salvation so I would consider them almost automatic amputees. We just completed what the bomb had done.

REPORTER: Doctor, could you just take a moment to reflect on what the last 24 hours has been like for you, your staff, as a doctor, as a member of this community? What has this experience been like for you?

VELMAHOS: The experience is obviously overwhelming. We are all extremely sad. We are suffering emotionally for what happened to the people of Boston and many others. At the same time, we can't feel but proud because the medical community here at Mass General responded in an amazing way.

Suffice it to say that some of the trauma group that happened to be outside the city jumped on planes immediately in order to come back and they did come back within hours. One of our physicians was actually running the marathon and dehydrated as he was, he came back immediately after he finished the marathon to offer his help.

So yes, these are difficult moments for all of us, but at the same time we feel quite proud for what we've been able to offer and extremely appreciative for the opportunity to offer that to the people.

REPORTER: Can you describe the emotional toll? How does that manifest itself with some of your staff? You say overwhelming. I'm not trying to exaggerate this, but how does that manifest itself?

VELMAHOS: We're all trauma surgeons, so we are quite used to seeing unexpected events to a very large scale. So even if we are empathetic and we always stay by the side of the patient through the physical and the emotional disaster, we all know how to control our feelings and do what is best for the patient rather than focusing to ourselves.

REPORTER: Doctor, how much do you think having all those first emergency workers on the scene, how much did factor into survival rate of the people you're seeing now?

VELMAHOS: I think it was an amazing response. As far as I understand, all these details are still not clear. And mind you I spent the larger part of the last 15 hours taking care of patients and not learning the details, but I think it was an amazing response and because of the rapid pre-hospital response, life was able to be saved.

REPORTER: Doctor, is your team exhausted -- are they getting rest or are you able to just keep pushing forward? VELMAHOS: We keep on pushing forward. Thank God, again, we have endless resources and we're able to keep on operating and providing care.

REPORTER: Doctor, this may seem like a really obvious question, but these extra materials that may have been packed into these bombs, how does that exacerbate the trauma?

VELMAHOS: Well, after a bomb, there is a number of traumatic injuries. Some of them is a direct effect of the bomb when the extremities are severely damaged or if there is bleeding, for example. But then there is secondary injury from the bomb blast, the wave of the bomb, that can push people away, can throw them and hit them against walls. And there's also another form of injury, which is from the particles that are broken and embedded in people. So we've seen all three of them after this event.

REPORTER: Doctor, (INAUDIBLE) your colleague at Brigham and Women's, Dr. Walls, has concluded that all of the shrapnel was environmental and none of it was intrinsic to the bomb. So how do we justify these two opinions?

VELMAHOS: It is -- I think we're still getting details of all the events that happened, and obviously it's very difficult to conclude based on initial impressions. I wouldn't exclude completely the possibility that some of these fragments are environmental, but my opinion is that most of them were in the bomb.

REPORTER: Doctor, what is the security like in there? Are there guards watching the patients?

VELMAHOS: So at the moment the intensive care units have restricted access. There is increased security around all the hospitals in the city, and you can see some of the police around this campus. That is a precautionary measure. My understanding is that all of the major hospitals are taking -- have been given the same protection.

REPORTER: Doctor, just for a moment, getting back to your previous answer, you said it's your opinion that there was extra material (INAUDIBLE) in these bombs. How do you reach that? What's the tip- off?

VELMAHOS: Because of the consistency of the fragments. Most of them are pellets, some of them are nail-like, so I think it's unlikely that they would be so consistent if they were pulled out -- pulled up from the environment.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) pellets or -- ?

VELMAHOS: Nails, yes, or sharp objects. I can't say what they are with certainty, but that's how they looked like.

REPORTER: Do you know how many you took out?

VELMAHOS: They are numerous. Numerous. There are people who have 10, 20, 30, 40 of them in their body. Or more. REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) over to investigators, the shrapnel?

VELMAHOS: We have -- we're close -- we're working very closely with investigators and we handed them whatever evidence we can find.

REPORTER: What are you seeing in terms of resiliency from the patients?

VELMAHOS: I think that the patients responded really, really well. The patients that were able to talk when they first arrived and they were not immediately sedated and intubated for the purpose of an operation were amazingly resilient, were really pulling it together, and quite frankly because of the patients, our life was made easier and we were able to provide better care. The patients were really amazing.

REPORTER: Can you be more specific about that? Can you give some specifics about that?

VELMAHOS: Most of the patients were calm. They were responding to our questions. They allowed us to examine them from top to bottom in detail. And they -- when we had time to explain our decisions and the course of care that we intended to take, the patients agreed. It was a very, very calm and collected response by the patients.

REPORTER: I know you can't be sure, but would you say that none of your patients are in danger of dying?

VELMAHOS: Yes, it is too early to decide that, but at this point I'm extremely happy with how things are going.

REPORTER: Doctor, how do you tell someone that you may have to take their leg?

VELMAHOS: I'm sorry?

REPORTER: How do you tell someone that you might have to take their leg?

VELMAHOS: It is a devastating thing. It is extremely difficult to come to this. But mind you, these patients who had amputations were the most severely injured ones and, therefore, quite frankly, these were the ones that were immediately intubated, immediately rolled into the operating room, and there was no real time to have a lengthy discussion. The focus was on saving their life from bleeding.


VELMAHOS: As far as I know, we don't have any patient at MGH that is related to each other. I don't know whether there are relatives of them that are transferred to other hospitals in Boston.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: And that is the case. We have patients here who have relatives that have been admitted to other Boston hospitals.

REPORTER: When are you planning for another update? UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Do we have another update planned?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we get new information. There's not a set time right now, but as we get more information (INAUDIBLE).

REPORTER: Dr. George, can you spell your name for us? Say it for us and spell it.

VELMAHOS: It's Velmahos, V-E-L-M-A-H-O-S.

REPORTER: Thank you.