St Rita's Nursing Home didn't make it

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MKSheppard
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St Rita's Nursing Home didn't make it

Post by MKSheppard » 2005-09-10 08:28am

St. Rita's Nursing Home didn't evacuate
12:17 PM CDT on Thursday, September 8, 2005
By KAREN BROOKS / The Dallas Morning News

CHALMETTE, La. – When St. Bernard Parish officials realized last week that St. Rita's Nursing Home had not evacuated as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the parish, they called to ask why. Their offer to send buses to help was turned down, they said Wednesday.

No one knows for sure why officials of St. Rita's, a privately owned nursing home, chose not to evacuate. On Wednesday, officials were still unsure of the number of people who died there, but previous estimates put the toll at 30 or more.
Katrina's Aftermath

"This is the worst thing I've ever seen, and I drug bodies to the levee after Hurricane Betsy," said 60-year-old Raymond Couture, one of the rescuers searching St. Rita's this week.

This suburban parish a few miles from downtown New Orleans was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding. Officials have estimated that the parish's death toll may reach 500.

Details of what happened at the facility are still sketchy, but the descriptions of what's inside the single-story, football-field-size building horrify even hardened disaster veterans.

The body of one elderly woman, clothed in a thin housedress, was on the concrete floor of the front patio. The thin, bony body of an old man was draped over the back of a chair, where the receding waters left it. A blackened hand was sticking out from between a gurney and collapsed wall.

At least some of the bodies remained in the nursing home Wednesday because the water outside the facility had been too high for workers to bring in vehicles to remove them.

Tables had been nailed against windows and wheelchairs had been piled up in an apparent effort to keep the water out, rescue workers said.

The smell of rotting human flesh clung to clothing of searchers going through the building. The high water mark reached a foot shy of the ceiling. Six inches of sewage, mud and putrefied tissue coated the floor in a slippery, dark brown scum strewn with broken furniture, bodies and wheelchairs.

Behind each door along the darkened hallway was a nightmare scene. Bodies were found in some of the rooms. Searchers couldn't get in other rooms because doors were blocked by tangled heaps of furniture and bodies. The cursory body count was 15, with more believed there. The searchers were fearful of falling into the muck.

Outside, debris covered the roof of a Hummer sport utility vehicle, which local officials say belonged to a staffer.

Parish officials were still trying to piece together what happened.

St. Rita's had the required evacuation plan: Ambulances would be called to take bedridden patients away, and the others would be evacuated by school buses. At least 60 patients and six staffers may have been in the building when Katrina hit.

Parish coroner Dr. Bryan Bertucci said several of the parish's other nursing homes evacuated during the weekend, but St. Rita's staffers never put their plan into effect.

Sunday afternoon, Dr. Bertucci said, he checked with St. Rita's staff to see why. He said the owner, Mabel Mangano, told him she had five special-needs patients, and an ambulance hadn't come to pick them up. Officials said she also told them that she had spoken with the families of patients who said it was okay to stay behind.

"There was frustration over not having her patients out; a false sense of security because they'd never flooded before; they had generators and stuff, and it [an evacuation] tends to be traumatic for some of these special-needs patients," Dr. Bertucci said.

"She asked me if we were upset," Dr. Bertucci said. "I said I'm not on the council, I'm concerned about the patients."

Dr. Bertucci said he told Ms. Mangano, " 'We've got two buses and two drivers that'll take you anywhere you want to go. Do you want the buses?'

"She said no."

Ms. Mangano is believed to have stayed with the patients, since no one has heard from her since the storm. Attempts to reach members of her family or relatives of nursing home residents were unsuccessful.

When water started rising quickly – about eight feet in 15 minutes, according to one official – shortly after the hurricane passed though the area Monday, a handful of nearby residents went to the facility and tried to rescue patients. Lowery Ingargolio, director of emergency preparedness, said the residents knew that St. Rita's hadn't been evacuated.

Because parish officials were busy trying to shore up a shelter elsewhere, residents started rushing to St. Rita's to get the residents out. With staff members, the residents floated some of the patients – about 20 – out on mattresses to a nearby school, but "they stopped rescuing people when the water got up to the door frame," said Henry Rodriguez Jr., parish president. "They couldn't get anybody out after that."

One of those brought out of St. Rita's died on the way to the school, two died at the school and a fourth died later in the hospital, officials said.

Mr. Rodriguez said the district attorney's office should convene a grand jury to investigate what happened at St. Rita's.

When Dr. Bertucci, who has witnessed horror after horror during the last week of hurricane madness, heard what had happened at St. Rita's, he said, "That's probably the first time I cried."

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Xon
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Post by Xon » 2005-09-10 08:45am

Holy fuck :shock:
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Post by Col. Crackpot » 2005-09-10 08:46am

I had to stop reading for a minute, because I damn near threw up.
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Chris OFarrell
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Post by Chris OFarrell » 2005-09-10 08:57am

I couldn't get past the description of the hand reaching out from the pile of rubble. Its just.....
Image

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Post by Coyote » 2005-09-10 12:50pm

That's why we need mandatory evacuations-- at force if need be. These people did not know what they were up against. They had weathered storms before and felt safe... ignorance and a false sense of security led them to their deaths.
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In Communism, there is no Government, so the Workers are free to exploit the Bosses.
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Post by Broomstick » 2005-09-10 07:01pm

Complacency and denial:

"We've survived hurricanes before... how is this different?"

"We've never had flooding before"

The people responsible for keeping the invalids safe did not snap out of their state of denial/complacency until it was too late. I don't see it as malicious so much as human nature for some people to deny an emergency exists until it overwhelms them.

The ones I feel sorriest for are the patients who simply didn't have the physical ability required to take themselves to safety, who no doubt experienced terror and helplessness before they died.
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