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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Larry Langford

Aired June 29, 2003 - 07:59   ET

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

KRIS OSBORN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to Chicago now, again, where a party in a three-story apartment ended with a deadly crash. The fire commissioner said it was chaos. For more on this developing story, let's go live to Chicago, with our own Jeff Flock. Hello, Jeff.
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kris, good morning to you. Indeed, spending some time now up close and personal at the scene of this, able to observe a lot more about what had transpired here. As you know, the top three decks collapsed, pan caking down and crushing people both beneath and above the decks.

I want you to look in the window, if you can. And Styke (ph) if you're able to see, perhaps you can see the remnants of that party that was taking place. Perhaps as best we can tell on multiple floors. You see the red cups perhaps there. Beneath that, if you're able to widen out a bit more, Styke, you see the sill has pulled away from the building. This is what the deck was sort of anchored on. That clearly has come away.

Investigators now going to be seeing if there was any kind of a structural flaw in this, or whether in fact, this is their first guess, there were just too many people out here.

Back now to the pictures from last night. Dramatic pictures. One person sort of said this called up to him some sort of a war zone. You hear that a bit in these sorts of things. But clearly, a lot of people -- they were literally dozens of people injured. The death toll as we speak now is at a dozen. And rescue officials tell us that could perhaps -- hospital officials say that could perhaps go higher because they've still got several critical. I believe the number of critical is now at 10.

And this whole ally where we are standing now live turning into some sort of a make shift triage unit. There were folks from the bar across the street where apparently a number of the patrons had come from this party. In fact, one of the people that works at the bar said some people came over, they said because there were too many people. They just didn't feel comfortable. There were too many people at this party, so they went out to get some air across the street to the local bar. And then all of this sort of began unfolding at about 12:30 this morning Central Time in Chicago.

As we said, Kris, the toll now, a dozen dead and dozens literally injured. We're going to get the latest from the Cortez Trotter and the city's emergency management director and other city officials, we hope, in terms of the real numbers on injured. But clearly, lot of people affected by this.

Kris, back to you.

OSBORN: Oh, without question. Thank you very much. CNN's Jeff Flock live from Chicago.

On this very issue, we want to hear from Chicago's emergency personnel. From Chicago, we're joined on the telephone by Larry Langford from the city's Office of Emergency Management.

Thank you for joining us on the phone under these difficult circumstances, Mr. Langford. Can you begin by telling us the latest as far as what you know?

LARRY LANGFORD, OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: We have confirmed 11 people have been killed at the scene and 45 people have been transported to 10 area hospitals here in Chicago with injuries ranging from critical to very minor. Some of the people who were actually on the third floor deck were able to walk away, riding the deck down on to the second floor and then the first floor. The critical injuries and the fatalities were mostly on the first and second floor because the decks fell on those people.

OSBORN: Now, Mr. Trotter was saying earlier the third floor deck fell on the decks below, which may have increased the casualties.

LANGFORD: That is correct. Now, we understand we had people on all three decks, but the third floor deck was the one that collapsed first and as it came down, pan caked down and each deck successively crashed after that, ending up with people in the stairwell that goes into the basement. That's where we had some of the fatalities, people crushed under all the decks. And the people, they're actually in the staircase itself going into the basement door.

OSBORN: Now, this certainly can't be a huge focus right now, but many are beginning to ask questions about the sturdiness, the strength of the wood on those decks, the number of people there, et cetera.

LANGFORD: Well, looking at the structure, which we have already done, it is relatively new construction. And it appears to be pretty heavy wood. The question, is was the rating of the porch exceeded? Based on what we're hearing, there's a high probability that just too many people were on that deck. Not that the deck was not properly built, but too many people were there and it failed. Once, it failed it just cascaded on down.

Our building department is currently looking to see if the permits were properly pulled on this construction when the construction was done. Taking a look at the plans. They're in the office now reviewing that and we'll have something on that later on.

OSBORN: Now, I heard you earlier say 11. Can you clarify the number of people who have died so far?

LANGFORD: The city's official number is 11. We are also hearing 12 from some media outlets. So there is a discrepancy there but we have on my paperwork, 11 known dead at the scene and 45 transported.

OSBORN: Now, Mr. Langford, we've heard the term triage a lot this morning. Of course, that is a kind of an emergency medicine where you're treating casualties as quickly as possible. The point being, there might be serious casualties currently being treated that could turn into, unfortunately death.

LANGFORD: That's correct. We had at least 12 people were transported in what was called Red Condition. In Chicago, we have a color code, green, yellow and red, red being the most critical of the injured. But at least 12 of those, and depending on how those injuries go, the fatality count could in fact go higher.

OSBORN: Larry Langford, thank you very much for joining us amidst very traumatic times for you, Chicago Office of Emergency Management.

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