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Governor of Rhode Island Addresses Reporters

Aired February 21, 2003 - 17:35   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The governor of Rhode Island is once again speaking with reporters. Let's listen in and here what he's saying.

GOV. DONALD CARCIERI (R), RHODE ISLAND: There seems to be roughly 80 people that have surfaced that actually were here at the club, left, and now have come forward saying, yes, they were there. But they got home safely.

We're trying to piece those ingredients together, because, if I do my arithmetic and I say we've got 187 that we treated, and so another 80 that were there and then got home safely and now have come forward, that's 267. And then when I add to that the 95 that we think it looks like bodies that we've taken out here, then that's almost 350 people.

And, remember, I said earlier, we had no idea how many people. Now, that seems to be more people than we had been led to believe. So we're trying to double-check some of those numbers. But right now, as I indicated, I think, earlier, everyone that's been in the hospital has been identified. Those lists are at the Crown Plaza for the families.

Right now, the families have been filling out forms, if you will, kinds of identification things, and bringing in pictures that can assist in the process of identification. So, right now, there's work going on, as you see over here. They're more going through in teams, just going segment by segment of the building to make sure, A, we look for any evidence, look for any personal belongings and make sure that we haven't missed anything there.

That will go on for some hours yet. And then -- but right now, our whole focus is to do what we can to try and identify the bodies that we've pulled out.


QUESTION: One could assume that some of the victims are burned beyond recognition. Are some of the family members being asked to bring in personal belongings (OFF-MIKE) for DNA testing?

CARCIERI: Yes. And that will go forward and we'll see how that unfolds. We may need to do -- as I said earlier, we may possibly need some DNA testing, all different ranges here.

Some, we're led to believe, had identification. In talking to some of the firefighters who were pulling -- bringing the bodies out, they said that there was identification on some of them. So we've got to go through that and then -- and use that as well.

QUESTION: Governor, how many of the bodies have been already identified?

CARCIERI: Very few, OK? I don't have an exact count. But Dr. Nolan (ph) -- the team of Red Cross people were going to begin meeting with some of the families over there where they have gotten some identification. But I'm led to believe it's very few. It's less than 10. And that's why I'm concerned that we get at this process faster, with more resources, so that we can make that I.D. happen more quickly.


CARCIERI: We don't know. Don't know.


CARCIERI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) on the investigation, Governor? Should we expect anything later in the evening?

CARCIERI: I don't know. I can't comment on that. My whole focus has been on what I've described to you. And I know the state police or the attorney general and local law enforcement are busy pursuing all of that. So, whether they'll have more tonight, I don't know.

QUESTION: Governor, have any of the families indicated, expressed any anger toward what happened? Do they want to see anybody held criminally responsible? And how have you responded?

CARCIERI: Well, sure, there's anger. I think that's what you would expect. People are just sort of in shock.

And I think, right now, all the families that I spoke to, the biggest concern is just some closure. Was my loved one one of those 95? I told them before I left that I had the update from here that the fatalities had risen. And you can sense, in many of them, hope dwindling rapidly. And they're heartbreaking. The stories are absolutely heartbreaking.

QUESTION: Is it your hope, Governor, that the attorney general will find a way to bring criminal charges here?

CARCIERI: Well, we've got to go through a process. If there's criminal wrongdoing, believe me, it will be pursued in the charges. But there's a process, there's an investigation going on. And I don't want to prejudge that. QUESTION: Sir, within your knowledge, we heard that the state police has already questioned the band members. Who else are being questioned right now?

CARCIERI: Oh, I don't know exactly. I suspect that anybody who has been associated with this is being questioned and that's going forward.

QUESTION: The owner? The owner?

CARCIERI: I don't know.

QUESTION: Governor, the investigation is ongoing, but do you expect that the result of (OFF-MIKE)

CARCIERI: Well, you don't know.

What we've got to do -- as I said, I don't want to get ahead of us. My concern right now is dealing with the immediate situation. The next step, as I have said, we met earlier today. And I have said I wanted to get an inventory ASAP on other kinds of facilities like this around the state. If we've got other venues where we've got this kind of thing going on with large groups, what is the facility like? Are they sprinklered, all those kinds of things?

So, we're going to go through that process, because, God forbid, we don't want something like this to happen again at another location when we should have known about it. So we're going to go through that. Whether there's legislation or changes that need to take place, we'll see how that falls out.

QUESTION: Governor, can you tell us how many family members you've talked to and what you've said to them?

CARCIERI: Well, I don't, in terms of members, I didn't -- my guess is, there was probably a couple hundred people over there. How many families that represents, I'm not sure, because you've got neighbors, friends. You've got brothers, sisters. You've got many family members. So, of that, how many actual families that's representing, I don't know.

All I've said is, there's not much you can say. The pain, the hurt, what these people are going through, the loss, is just not something that you can speak to. All that I've tried to say is, we assure them that we will do everything we can to get them answers on their loved ones as fast as possible.

And then there's a lot of support. Let me just say that the Red Cross, the number of clergy people that I saw there, there were dozens. So the community has really come together to provide support for these families. But, right now, their biggest question is: Where is their loved one?

QUESTION: Governor, do you have any idea if this club was 21 and over?

CARCIERI: I don't know that.


CARCIERI: Absolutely. I think that we will find at the end of the day that there will be few people that aren't touched somehow, because, as you say, the beauty of our little state is that we know a lot of people and know one another. We care for one another. And that's showing in this terrible tragedy.

The outpouring of love and concern and caring has just been -- just truly amazing. So, yes, I think you're right. We're going to find that many of us are going to be impacted either directly or indirectly by this.

BLITZER: Governor Donald Carcieri, the governor of Rhode Island, speaking poignantly about this horrible disaster that has affected not only his community, West Warwick, Rhode Island, but, indeed, the entire nation, the entire world has been watching this sad story, confirming 95 dead, saying that very few of them so far identified, obviously, those bodies extremely badly burned.


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