Official: Nursing home owner refused help

Sept. 9, 2005 at 11:22 AM
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CHALMETTE, La., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A Louisiana coroner says the owner of a nursing home, where at least 30 died in Hurricane Katrina's wake, had earlier refused an offer of evacuation help.

Bryan Bertucci, coroner with the St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, said a day before Katrina hit, he made an urgent call to the owner of St. Rita's Nursing Home, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Friday.

"I told her I had two buses and two drivers who could evacuate all 70 of her residents and take them anywhere she wanted to go," he said.

But, he said the owner told him she had five nurses and a generator, and they were going to stay on.

On Wednesday, rescue workers began the task of removing about 30 decomposing bodies from the still-flooded nursing home, the report said. An investigation into the incident has been ordered.

At the single-story nursing home, residents confined to their beds or wheelchairs were quickly overwhelmed by the rapidly rising water, Bertucci said. As the storm raged, neighbors and firefighters rescued about 40 nurses and residents, the report said.

Bertucci said he thinks the nursing home owner survived the storm.

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