Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Copp Apparently Missed 9/11 Fund Deadline
Earlier this year, Doug Copp was awarded $649,000, tax free, from the fund set up to compensate victims of 9/11. He says it's not enough. But it's doubtful he deserves anything. A Journal investigation found no evidence Copp did real rescue work in New York. Read the Journal's full four-day series here.
By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
Whatever Doug Copp's illness, he does not appear to have met the requirement of the 9/11 compensation fund that he received medical attention within 72 hours of being hurt. Copp told the fund he did.
Copp said he approached a doctor he can't remember exactly when, but thinks it was probably Sept. 13 or Sept. 14 "coughing my guts out" and asked for advice.
The doctor told Copp not to worry, Copp said, and that he would cough it all out in a couple of weeks.
Copp identifies that doctor as Elliot Pierce of Albuquerque.
Copp said in earlier interviews that his interaction with Pierce came when he came out of the subway at ground zero.
He said in an interview in Albuquerque last month that he consulted Pierce outside the Jacob Javits Center, the command center for operations that was about three miles north of ground zero.
Copp said he asked Pierce there, "Do I need to take medicine? Do I need to stay out of there? Do I need to do something? Is there something I need to do like, I don't know, take oxygen or something?"
Copp said Pierce's response was "very cavalier."
"And I remember his exact words," Copp said. " 'Don't worry about it, you'll cough it all out in a couple of weeks.' ''
"Please quote me in the newspaper that I blame him entirely, OK?" Copp said.
Pierce said he believes he spoke to Copp once many hours after his arrival and beyond the fund's time frame and never talked about Copp's health. He said he did not talk to him at all at the Javits Center.
"This is absolutely 100 percent false," Pierce said when he was shown a letter Copp wrote to Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., describing his supposed encounter with Pierce and saying it satisfied the fund's requirement for seeking medical attention.
Pierce did not arrive in New York to help in the rescue operation until the evening of Sept. 18, already beyond the 72-hour requirement for seeking medical attention for a 9/11 injury, which would have ended about 9 a.m. Sept. 18.
Pierce said he cannot remember speaking to Copp until sometime around mid-morning on Sept. 19 about 24 hours after the time limit to consult a doctor had passed. And Pierce said they never talked about Copp's health.
Pierce had flown on the Journal Publishing Co.'s corporate jet on publisher T.H. Lang's second trip to New York. Lang said that after returning from ground zero on Sept. 15, he wanted to go back to help and decided "to bring some hands."
Pierce, a friend of his who has been an internist for years and now specializes in osteoporosis, wanted to make the trip.
Robert Staehlin, the Albuquerque Publishing Co.'s director of maintenance, also agreed to go but traveled by commercial airline because he was waiting in Albuquerque for communications equipment.
A flight log shows Lang and Pierce landed at the airport in suburban White Plains, N.Y., just after dark on Sept. 18. After driving into the city, Pierce and Lang headed to ground zero.
Pierce and Lang, without credentials, went into the site and worked on a bucket brigade for several hours, Pierce recalls.
Pierce said he passed Copp at ground zero that night but said he doesn't think they spoke.
After going to the hotel early that morning for some sleep, Pierce said he had breakfast with Staehlin and Mike Holley, another Albuquerque man who had gone to New York with Lang and Pierce to help.
After breakfast they went with Lang to Copp's room at the Marriott because they wanted to see whether Copp had obtained credentials to be at the site, Pierce said.
Pierce said Copp talked non-stop for between 30 and 40 minutes.
"He talked about his heroics. He talked about how great he was," said Pierce. "He stood out in an atmosphere where people were trying to help and he was trying to promote himself. He contrasted to everyone. He was outstanding by himself as a self-promoter. He was concerned only with himself."
Lang said he left the room in disgust after a few minutes. Pierce, Staehlin and Holley stayed.
Pierce said Copp never coughed and did not talk about his health. Holley and Staehlin said they also do not recall Copp coughing or addressing Pierce with questions about his health.
"I don't remember saying anything," Pierce said. "It was like a lecture."
"We never discussed anything about his medical condition, period," he said.
Later that day, Pierce said he saw Copp at the Javits Center and stopped to listen as Copp was trying to interest someone in his machine, which he said could sniff out dead bodies.
He said he did not talk to Copp there.
Pierce said no one from the September 11th fund contacted him to verify Copp's account before Copp was awarded nearly $650,000.