Saturday, September 10, 2005
By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 9,10:27 PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - (left) helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president's son.
Gore criticized the Bush administration's slow response to Katrina in a speech Friday in San Francisco, but refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew last Saturday and Sunday.
However, Dr. Anderson Spickard, who is Gore's personal physician and accompanied him on the flights, said: "Gore told me he wanted to do this because like all of us he wanted to seize the opportunity to do what one guy can do, given the assets that he has."
In the speech, Gore urged that the Bush administration be held accountable for the government's inadequate relief response, particularly "when the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic floodwaters five days after a hurricane struck."
Bush administration officials have said Katrina's damage could not have been anticipated, but Gore rejected that.
"What happened was not only knowable, it was known in advance, in great and painstaking detail," Gore told the 's national convention. "They did tabletop planning exercises. They identified exactly what the scientific evidence showed would take place."
An account of the flights was posted this week on a Democratic Party Web page. It was written by Greg Simon, president of the Washington-based activist group FasterCures. Simon, who helped put together the mission, also declined an interview.
On Sept. 1, three days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Simon learned that Dr. David Kline, a neurosurgeon who operated on Gore's son, Albert, after a life-threatening auto accident in 1989, was trying to get in touch with Gore. Kline was stranded with patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.
"The situation was dire and becoming worse by the minute food and water running out, no power, 4 feet of water surrounding the hospital and ... corpses outside," Simon wrote.
Gore responded immediately, telephoning Kline and agreeing to underwrite the $50,000 each for the two flights, although Larry Flax, founder of California Pizza Kitchens, later pledged to pay for one of them.
"None of the airlines involved required a contract or any written guarantee of payment before sending their planes and volunteer crews," Simon wrote of the American Airlines flights. "One official said if Gore promised to pay, that was good enough for them."
He also recruited two doctors, Spickard and Gore's cousin, retired Col. Dar LaFon, an emergency physician who once ran the military hospital at Tallil Air Base in .
Most critically, Gore worked to cut through government red tape, personally calling Gov. Phil Bredesen to get Tennessee's support and U.S. Transportation Secretary to secure landing rights in New Orleans.
About 140 people, many of them sick, landed in Knoxville on Saturday. The second flight, with 130 evacuees, landed the next day in Chattanooga.
Source: AP-Yahoo News.
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