As if the Brian Williams story weren’t already murky enough, the helicopter pilot interviewed yesterday on CNN is now questioning his memories that partly supported Williams’ account.
I text-messaged Krell before dawn, and asked him to call me as soon as he woke up. He replied with this text:
“Good morning. The information I gave you was true based on my memories, but at this point I am questioning my memories that I may have forgotten or left something out.”
He said, “For the past 12 years I have been trying to forget everything that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan; now that I let it back, the nightmares come back with it, so I want to forget again.”
He concluded, “The men in that article deserve respect. Please understand.”
Meanwhile, our stalker friend Chuck C. Johnson launched another front in the war against Williams yesterday, claiming that Williams’ story of seeing a dead body from his hotel room in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina had to be false, because the French Quarter was not flooded and therefore he could not have seen a floating corpse. This story has now spread to mainstream sources (and Chuck is freaking out because nobody is crediting him for it).
But as usual, it now looks like Chuck has jumped to conclusions based on no solid evidence again, and is very likely wrong — because the hotel where Williams apparently stayed was surrounded by flooded streets, with water deep enough to float a boat, and bodies were recovered from the area around the hotel: Katrina Photos Show Water Did Surround Ritz-Carlton, Where NBC Anchor Brian Williams Stayed.
While doubters have noted correctly that the Quarter, New Orleans’ original high ground, remained largely if not completely dry, photographs and news reports from the time indicate there was flooding around the Ritz-Carlton, where Williams apparently stayed. Hotel representative Darren Crumpton said Friday the Ritz could not confirm Williams was there because it does not disclose the identity of guests for privacy reasons.
The hotel is located on Canal Street between Burgundy and Dauphine streets — technically just outside the Quarter, which is bounded by Esplande Avenue, the Mississippi River, and Iberville and North Rampart streets.
Pictures shot at the time by a guest at the hotel show there was water outside the Ritz. It’s unclear how deep the water was: It’s shallow enough that the sidewalk below is clearly visible, but also deep enough that a boat is bobbing in the water. It is also unclear exactly what day the pictures were taken.
A Times-Picayune account from Sept. 1, 2005, cites a hotel manager describing the hotel as being surrounded by water, and discussing the Ritz’ efforts to evacuate guests. A subsequent report on Sept. 8 by the same reporter, Rebecca Mowbray, says the Ritz sustained significant flood damage and was shuttered. It would remain closed for at least 15 months while it invested $100 million plus in a renovation of the property, according to news accounts.
Whether or not Williams indeed saw a body in floating in the water from his hotel room window is likely unverifiable, but waterlogged corpses were not an uncommon sight in the days after the hurricane. A number of bodies were recovered in that general area, according to Times-Picayune accounts from the time and a New York Times map tracking the location of the bodies.
Here are the photos shot by Charles M. Herring at the time: