ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) _ Like other residents of St. Bernard Parish, the owners of a Louisiana nursing home where 35 patients died in Hurricane Katrina were never formally ordered to evacuate, a former parish official testified in the negligent homicide trial of the facility's owners.
Larry Ingargiola, the parish's emergency preparedness chief when the 2005 storm struck, said elected officials warned residents about the powerful storm in televised news conferences. Ingargiola said he failed to persuade Parish President Henry ``Junior'' Rodriguez to sign a formal mandatory evacuation order.
Prosecutors called Ingargiola to testify Monday in the trial of Salvador and Mabel Mangano, husband-and-wife owners of St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish. Testimony was to resume Tuesday.
Both 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.
But defense lawyers used Ingargiola's recollections to burnish their case that government failures _ not the Manganos _ were to blame for the deaths.
Defense lawyer John Reed suggested that TV news conferences were not enough to persuade residents to flee, and government should have ordered them north.
``It is government officials that call for evacuations,'' Reed said.
``Yes, sir,'' Ingargiola replied.
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.