Source AP ©

State inspectors testify no fault in evacuation plans for home where 35 died during Katrina

State inspectors found no problems in 2004 with evacuation plans for the Louisiana nursing home where 35 patients died in Hurricane Katrina a year later, as was testified Monday in the negligent homicide trial of the facility's owners.

Inspectors from the Department of Health and Hospitals surveyed St. Rita's nursing home in September 2004, including its emergency plans for hurricanes, and reported no deficiencies, said Carolyn Dell, the agency's chief of nursing home supervision.

Dell testified in the trial of Salvador and Mabel Mangano, husband-and-wife owners of St. Rita's in St. Bernard Parish.

The Manganos each face 35 counts of negligent homicide, one for each of the patients who died in the wake of the August 2005 storm. Each defendant also faces 24 counts of cruelty, for the suffering of the survivors.

Prosecutors with the state Attorney General's office are trying to prove that the Manganos should have evacuated their patients as the storm approached.

Prosecutors also called Larry Ingargiola, the parish's emergency preparedness chief when the storm struck, who testified that the public was kept well informed about Katrina's path and its strength as it approached.

Ingargiola recounted conference calls he had with the National Weather Service and the subsequent news media coverage the storm received. Reading from weather service reports, Ingargiola described how the storm gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 28 and swerved toward Louisiana.

The storm flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and wiped out most of St. Bernard Parish, as well as neighboring areas in Louisiana and along the Mississippi coast. Katrina killed more than 1,400 people in Louisiana and well over 200 in Mississippi.

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