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Hurricane Katrina: How One Family Came Together to Rebuild Restaurant

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Justine Quart/ABC News(NEW ORLEANS) — Sophie Nord couldn’t believe what she saw on TV.

The columned two-story Queen Anne home that stood for more than 100 years — and housed her parent’s restaurant, The Chimneys — had been reduced to splinters, the historic columns and white shutters thrown about in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s just a complete change of what your life had been — and you see it in pieces,” she said.

The building, once a stately society home dubbed the “jewel of the coast” overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Gulfport, Mississippi, had been turned to a mass only vaguely resembling the restaurant it had become.

“That’s the first time ever in my life I had actually ever panicked,” said Nord, now 34, who watched helplessly from San Diego where she worked at the time as the destruction unfolded.

Nord’s parents, Peter and Dix Ballard, safe upstate at her grandmother’s house during storm, had painstakingly refurbished the once-decaying mansion into the restaurant specializing in “coastal cuisine” with their signature crab claws and blackened stuffed fillets.

Those years of work, and the ensuing years of entertaining locals with their signature “Spirited Dining,” was wiped away in one fell swoop when Katrina hit the coast on Aug. 29, 2005.

The Nord family founded The Chimneys in the mid-1980s and changed locations within Gulfport twice before moving a third time to the current gulf-facing property. Peter Nord spent a year coordinating the renovation of the turn-of-the-century mansion after purchasing the property in 1999. Meanwhile, the restaurant was operating at its second location four miles west in Long Beach.

He and the construction crews took care to save the original columnar structures and Scamozzi columns, according to a written history compiled by Dix about the restaurant.

Peter Nord drove down from his in-laws home in Natchez, more than 200 miles northeast of Gulfport, the day after the storm to see the damage for himself and to salvage items from the wreckage. Sophie said he had to present ID proving he was a resident to the armed National Guardsmen who were limiting access to the impacted areas.

“Well we’d seen it [on television] so we knew,” she said, “I think we were actually a little surprised that he was able to save anything — a few pieces of silver, a table.”

Sophie said that in the wreckage, he spotted an old captain’s wheel that they had hung behind the bar, “so my dad, being crazy and brave like he is, climbed up and got the captain’s wheel just as something to save.”

The decision to rebuild was not an easy one to make, especially since it wasn’t their only structure to be devastated by the Category 3 storm. The family’s house had also suffered serious storm damage even though it was further inland, and Peter Nord was spending much of his time rebuilding their home before turning his attention to the restaurant.

“I would have moved back sooner but they told me there was no place to sleep at home,” Sophie said. “There was only one bedroom that was not destroyed and that was on the third story.”

The debate over whether to rebuild the restaurant was influenced by their neighbors and customers.

“There were a couple people that said things to my dad or my mom, like, ‘What do we need to do?’ ‘How do we, do we need to get investors?’ Or ‘How do we get this project going?’” said Sophie.

The family grappled with rebuilding or selling the lot, but Sophie Nord said that selling it “seemed like that was cheating.”

So rebuild they did. It was not just a matter of replicating the old version of the restaurant; Sophie said that they felt like they wanted something “a little more laid back” befitting “the new Coast.” But, after what she said “seemed like 100 versions” of the new plan, they ended up going with a more contemporary take on the original style.

They used reclaimed wood in the rebuilding and salvaged bricks from the original in the new fireplaces. One distinct change was to open the interior to make it more modern than the historic floorplan.

Locals say the hard work has paid off.

Laurie Toups, the executive director of the Gulfport Main Street Association, told ABC News that the restaurant has been recognized as a significant contributor to the revitalization of the area.

“They set the bar very high for everyone else to follow,” Toups said in terms of preservation and “recognizing the significance of the building and the character and keeping in that character.”

On Christmas night 2009, The Chimneys first reopened its bar to friends and relatives. They offered dinner for the first time that New Year’s Eve. Sophie remembers guests getting festively dressed up on New Year’s, enjoying plenty of champagne and listening to a jazz trio that the Nords brought in for the special occasion.

Katrina was not the most recent upheaval in the family. Sophie’s mother, Dix Ballard, was diagnosed with cancer during the rebuilding process. She died in 2012, and her husband retired from the business shortly after that.

Now, Sophie and her brother Watson run the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. Sophie says she’s planning more weddings and special events in The Chimneys’ front yard than before the storm. “It’s become something of ‘an occasion place,’” she said.

“People said right after the storm it would take 10 years for everything to get back to normal,” Sophie said, “and at that point, in my 24-year-old mind, I thought ‘Ten years, oh my gosh, that’s forever! That’s eternity!’”

“But now… it does seem like it’s been a long time because a lot has happened in that time but also 10 years can go by pretty quickly,” she added.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hometown Headlines w/ Brad Barrett

Slain TV Reporter’s Father ‘Crying My Eyes Out’ over Deadly Shooting

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Jay Paul/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Andy Parker said his daughter Alison normally called every day.

She liked to check in and get her father’s insights on her reports with WDBJ, a CBS affiliate serving the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Virginia television market.

Alison didn’t call her father on Wednesday. Instead, he received messages from her co-workers — frantic, horrible messages.

Andy Parker learned later that his daughter and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were fatally shot while filming a live television segment. A former reporter at the station, Vester Lee Flanagan II — known professionally as Bryce Williams — allegedly shot the co-workers. He later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

“I’ve been alternating between the shock and the grief of it,” Andy Parker said during an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “I’ve been holding up I guess OK, but I’ve been crying my eyes out all day long. It’s gone back and forth, and now it’s … the anger is starting to creep in there, because this should not happen. It shouldn’t have happened to someone like Alison.”

Parker stood beside his daughter’s boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, during the Fox News interview. The couple had been dating for nine months.

Hurst said he was “not surprised” after Flanagan was identified as the alleged gunman.

“He was someone who was known by people at the station for volatility,” Hurst told Fox News.

Andy Parker said he’s trying to reconcile what happened, to make sense of it all, to find purpose in his daughter’s death.

“She was happy with her place in life. So we can only take some solace in the fact that she had a wonderful life. She was extremely happy, and she loved [Hurst] with all her heart,” he said. “That’s the toughest thing for me … everybody that she touched loved her, and she loved everybody back, and, you know, I’m not going to let this issue drop. We’ve got to do something about crazy people getting guns.”

Andy Parker said that he spoke to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe following the shooting, and that McAuliffe was supportive of any gun control measures that the grieving father pursues.

“I’m going to do something … whatever it takes,” Parker said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Loyal Listeners Club

Virginia Shooter’s Alleged History of Problems at Former TV Station

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Virginia State Police(FAIRFAX, Va.) — The trail of workplace rage that appears in part to have led a Virginia news reporter to shoot two colleagues Wednesday on live television is meticulously -– even hauntingly -– laid out in a long series of memos filed as part of Vester Lee Flanagan’s lawsuit against his onetime employer, WDBJ.

The 167-page file from Roanoke City General District Court documents a series of alleged issues with his former employer — for whom the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, also worked — according to memos written to and about Flanagan by station management.

On May 31, 2012 according to the documents, Flanagan’s news director at the time cited the reporter -– who used the professional name Bryce Williams -– for cursing at his cameraman and berating him in front of an interview subject.

“Ultimately, remedying the rift with individual co-workers caused by your behavior is up to you and will take constant and conscious effort,” wrote Dan Dennison. “Any further incidents of inappropriate behavior or situational response that is not professional or leaves a co-worker feeling threatened or uncomfortable will lead to more serious disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

Two months later, on July 30, Dennison was even more pointed:

“Your behaviors continue to cause a great deal of friction with your co-workers,” he wrote, according to the document.

“Under no circumstances should you engage in harsh language, demonstrate aggressive body language, or lash out at a photographer in front of members of the public,” Dennison continued. “Clearly much damage has been done already in your working relationships with several members of the photography staff. It is your responsibility, going forward, to work at repairing these relationships.”

The news director then ordered Flanagan to contact the station’s employee-assistance program, saying “failure to comply will result in termination of employment.”

Flanagan was hired on March 6, 2012, at a salary of $36,000, the documents show.

He was fired on Feb. 1, 2013 and filed suit 13 months later, accusing the station of sexual and racial harassment and not paying him overtime that he claimed he was due, among other things.

He represented himself in the case, which was dismissed in July 2014. The station denied any wrongdoing, said that it investigated Flanagan’s claims and found them meritless, according to Marci Burdick, Senior VP of the station’s parent company, Schurz Communications.

Burdick also said that there have been no threats to the station or personnel since Flanagan was fired.

The path from the summer of 2012 to his firing six months later is marked by a decline in his behavior, then improvement and then accusations the documents say.

On Aug. 6, 2012, Flanagan got the lowest possible marks for working with colleagues and the second-lowest for interacting with outsiders.

On Nov. 9, 2012, he was cited by Dennison for violating journalistic standards by wearing an Obama political sticker while waiting to vote. Though superiors acknowledged that Flanagan had not previously received demerits for his ethics, they were concerned that such a problem would only add to the pile of grievances people had with him.

“You need to quickly and diligently move from the category of an employee who commits misstep after misstep to the kind of problem-free employee we hope you can become,” his boss wrote, according to the documents.

“Your disciplinary actions and performance deficits are well documented…We are fast reaching the point where continued violations of company policy or basic journalistic standards could mean termination from employment at WDBJ7.”

Six weeks later, the managers at the station were openly discussing with Flanagan a possible end of their relationship with the reporter.

“Maybe it’s time for me to go,” Flanagan is reported to have said in response to two lengthy discussions with Dennison on Christmas Eve.

Three weeks into January 2013, Flanagan for the first time brought up “discrimination.” In a meeting called to discuss a technical problem on a story, Flanagan raised “his concerns about possible discrimination.” He was upset about “a couple of statements that he thought were racist” and said “he felt he was working in a hostile work environment.”

By Feb. 1, a meeting was called to fire Flanagan. It was punctuated by a confrontation, the documents say.

When he was briefed on his severance package, Flanagan came back with this: “”You better call police because I’m going to make a big stink. This is not right.”

Station managers called the cops. As Flanagan cleared out his things, the police arrived, according to the memos.

The news director “and two police officers came into the newsroom,” according to the file.

“They told Bryce that the company wanted him off the property and needed to leave,” Flanagan’s bosses wrote. “Bryce refused and continued to keep trying to call (the station’s owner) from his desk phone. The officer began to take the phone and Bryce said ‘Take your hands off me. Leave me alone.’ Some other members of the staff were on the periphery of the newsroom observing and recording video. The officers continued to tell Bryce he needed to leave. Bryce tossed a hat and small wooden cross at Dan (the news director) and said ‘You need this.’

“He told one of the officers ‘You know what they did? They had a watermelon back there for a week and basically called me a n——.’ Dan instructed any remaining employees to leave the newsroom. Dan and I also went to the periphery of the newsroom and allowed the officers to remove Bryce from the building.”

In a May 26, 2014 letter, Flanagan pleaded with the judge handling the case, Francis Burkart III, according to records.

“Your Honor, what I encountered while employed at WDBJ-7 was nothing short of vile, disgusting and inexcusable,” he wrote to Burkart. “I will be able to prove the defendant broke several laws. Judge Burkart, I realize this is the ultimate ‘David vs. Goliath’ scenario, so to speak. However, I am neither intimidated nor fearful. While I may not be an expert with regards to case law and legal terms, I AM an expert when it comes to integrity, character and the difference between right and wrong.”

He said he wanted to be tried by a jury of black women. And he vowed that “I will not rest until this matter is resolved. I am a very, very persistent person and will utilize every resource I have to achieve justice…”

Flanagan also complained of “a conspiracy” by the camera staff to oust him from the station.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Song of The Day

Three Shot, Including Police Officer, in Louisiana

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(SUNSET, La.) —  A shooting in Sunset, Louisiana, left three people injured this afternoon, according to Louisiana state police.

A police officer is reportedly among the injured, the state police official told ABC News.

This is a developing story.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Nugget of Knowldege

What Virginia Shooting Suspect Vester Flanagan Did Leading Up to the On-Air Attack

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Virginia State Police(FAIRFAX, Va.) — The man who authorities said fatally shot a reporter and a cameraman during a live report in Virginia Wednesday morning had taken steps ahead of the attack, according to details from investigators and the 23-page suicide note someone claiming to be him sent to ABC News.

According to police, the shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II, who used the name Bryce Williams on air, died Wednesday afternoon as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot hours after the attack on the crew at the station that he was fired from two years ago.

Here is what is believed about his actions during the months leading up to Wednesday’s shooting.

June 19, 2015

According to the letter that was faxed to ABC News Wednesday morning, the author wrote that he was motivated by the massacre at Charleston, SC church and took steps to buy a gun two days later.

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15.”

The author wrote that: “what sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

“The church shooting was the tipping point… but my anger has been building steadily… I’ve been a human powder keg for a while… just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

It was not clear how or when the gunman obtained the firearm that was used in the shooting.

Earlier in August

Virginia State Police Sgt. Rick Garletts said Flanagan, 41, rented a Chevrolet Sonic earlier this month.

In the past few weeks, a man who identified himself as “Bryce Williams” began contacting ABC News saying that he wanted to pitch a story and requesting a fax number. He never told ABC News about the content of the story.

6:43 a.m. Wednesday

Garletts said that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about the gunshots heard fired at Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake.

A WDBJ crew, made up of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, were doing a live interview at that location. The footage was aired live, and viewers heard gunshots.

Ward’s fiancee worked as a producer for the morning news program and was in the station’s control room when the footage aired.

Authorities said Flanagan fled the scene in his vehicle, a 2009 Ford Mustang.

8:26 a.m.

The 23-page suicide note was received at a fax machine in ABC News’ New York headquarters.

10 a.m.

The man identifying himself as Williams called ABC News again, and introduced himself as “Bryce,” but also said his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan, and that he had shot two people. While on the phone, he said authorities are “after me,” and “all over the place.” He hung up. ABC News contacted the authorities immediately and provided them with the fax.

Just Before 11 a.m.

Police tracked the Mustang to the Roanoke regional airport.

Garletts said that Flanagan then left the airport Wednesday in the Chevrolet Sonic.

11:09 a.m.

Williams began posting messages on his Twitter account, detailing alleged grievances that he had with people he identified as “Alison” and “Adam,” noting that he posted a video of the shooting on Facebook. It has since been taken down.

He posted a series of five tweets over the span of three minutes.

Just Before 11:30 a.m.

A Virginia state police trooper used a license plate reader, which identified a Chevrolet Sonic traveling east on Interstate 66 as the one that had been rented to Flanagan.

“She followed the vehicle a short distance as troopers responded to assist her before she activated her lights,” Garletts said.

Backup arrived and she tried to get the vehicle to stop, using emergency equipment like sirens, but Garletts said he sped away.

“It was only a minute or two later when the Sonic ran off the road into the median,” Garletts said.

Flanagan was found in the car by the trooper, suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was airlifted to a hospital in Fairfax.

1:30 p.m.

Flanagan died at the Inova Fairfax Hospital as a result of the self-inflicted wound.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pet of the Week

Colorado Movie Theater Gunman James Holmes Formally Sentenced

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — James Holmes, the convicted gunman in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Holmes stood silently Wednesday in a maroon jail jumpsuit, as Colorado judge Carlos Samour handed down his formal sentence of 12 life terms without parole, plus 3,318 years — the maximum under Colorado state law.
Samour acknowledged that some families and survivors of the July 20, 2012 shootings are unhappy that Holmes did not get the death penalty, but noted the gunman will die in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
“Your healing is not tied to the defendant’s fate,” Samour told those watching from the gallery, adding he cannot fathom their pain.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Crusin In Cruces

After Shooting, Alleged Gunman Details Grievances in ‘Suicide Notes’

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A man claiming to be Bryce Williams called ABC News over the last few weeks, saying he wanted to pitch a story, and wanted to fax information. He never told ABC News what the story was.

On Wednesday morning, a fax was in the machine (time stamped 8:26 a.m.) almost two hours after the shooting. A little after 10 a.m., he called again, and introduced himself as Bryce, but also said his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan, and that he shot two people Wednesday morning. While on the phone, he said authorities are “after me,” and “all over the place.” He hung up. ABC News contacted the authorities immediately and provided them with the fax.

In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is “Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered Wednesday’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.

Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, and calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin’.

In an often, rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”

He says he has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. He says he has been attacked by black men and white females. He also talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man.

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Double Your Dollars

Suspect in On-Air Shooting Dies from Self-Inflicted Wound

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Virginia State Police(FAIRFAX, Va.) — The ex-reporter who was named as the suspect in an on-air shooting Wednesday morning has died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a local sheriff confirmed.

Vester Lee Flanagan, who is known professionally as Bryce Williams, died at a Fairfax, Virginia hospital at about 1:30 p.m., about seven hours after he shot two of his former colleagues.

The Virginia State Police reported that at 11:30 a.m. they spotted his vehicle and tried to pull him over but he sped away before his car “ran off the road and crashed.”

When troopers approached the vehicle, they “found the male driver suffering from a gunshot wound,” and he has been transported to a nearby hospital, state police said in a Facebook post.

Sometime between Tuesday night and this morning, ABC News received a fax from someone claiming to be Bryce Williams. It is a lengthy document: 23 pages. ABC News has turned it over to authorities.

Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were killed in the field during a live news segment in Moneta, Virginia, according to their station, WDBJ-TV, a CBS affiliate serving the Roanoke-Lynchburg television market.

A third person, Vicki Gardner, was injured in the shooting but is out of surgery and in stable condition, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital said.

WDBJ president and general manager Jeffrey A. Marks confirmed that Williams used to work at the station but was dismissed two years ago. Marks described him as “an unhappy man” and was dismissed after he “quickly became known for a reputation for being difficult to work with.”

Marks said Williams was “looking out for people to say things that he would take offense too.”

The shooting was reported at 6:45 a.m. and the Franklin County sheriff confirmed that it was considered an active-shooter situation, adding that the suspect was believed to be male.

Franklin County school officials said three schools were on lockdown in the area of the shooting and that police officers were offering additional security.

The shooting itself took place at Bridgewater Plaza, a recreational facility with shops, restaurants, a mini golf course and boat rentals, where Parker and Ward were reporting on the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hometown Headlines w/ Brad Barrett

Slain Virginia Reporter and Cameraman, ‘Did Great Work Every Day’

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Jay Paul/Getty Images(ROANOKE, Va.) — Alison Parker was in love.

Parker, the television news reporter slain Wednesday morning along with her cameraman, was dating another reporter at WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, Chris Hurst.

In a series of tweets, Hurst described Parker as “the most radiant woman I ever met.”

“We were together almost nine months,” Hurst wrote. “It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday.”

He added that he and Parker were “very much in love.”

Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, who were fatally shot during a live news segment at Bridgewater Plaza in Virginia, were remembered Wednesday morning by their co-workers at WDBJ, a CBS affiliate serving the Roanoke-Lynchburg television market.

“They did great work every day and put their all into what they did,” WDBJ anchor Kimberly McBroom said on air in the wake of the shooting.

Ward graduated from Virginia Tech and kept up with his alma mater’s football team, the station said. His Twitter page is a mixture of sports and humorous tweets.

Ward was engaged to WDBJ morning producer Melissa Ott, who was celebrating her last day at work Wednesday before starting a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ward had plans to move with his fiancee and get out of news, according to one of his co-workers, news anchor Jean Jadhon.

Parker started as an intern at the Virginia station, got a full-time job at a station in North Carolina, and returned to WDBJ to be a reporter. She grew up in Martinsville, Virginia, and attended Patrick Henry Community College and James Madison University in Harrisonburg.

She enjoyed whitewater kayaking, playing with her parents’ dog, Jack, and attending community theater events, according to her biography on her station’s website.

“She’s a rock star. She’s professional, so much fun and so kind,” McBroom said of Parker. “I lost my dad back in January and she was one of the first people to come with condolences, came to my home and brought food and comfort. That’s just who she was — a good friend.”

Jay Webb, the news director at another local Virginia television station, WHSV, worked at WDBJ for seven years and was close to Ward.

“Both extremely good people, will be missed,” Webb said in an interview with ABC News. “I think it’s been said this morning, just two journalists that were just trying to do a good job.”

It was a sentiment that McBroom echoed from the anchor desk: “They’re family and we’ve lost two members of our family.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Loyal Listeners Club

National Zoo Says Smaller Panda Cub Has Died

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by

Posted in National News

Photo by Smithsonian’s National Zoo via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The smaller of Washington’s National Zoo’s newborn panda cubs has died Wednesday, zoo officials confirmed.

“The smaller of the two giant panda cubs born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Aug. 22, died shortly after 2 p.m. today, Aug. 26,” the National Zoo released in a statement. “The panda team rotated both cubs in the past 24 hours allowing each to benefit from spending time with their mother, Mei Xiang.

“The smaller cub was with Mei Xiang from about 2 p.m. yesterday, Aug. 25, until this morning. When the panda team swapped the cubs this morning, they assessed the little cub and had concerns because it had not increased in weight, appeared weaker and exhibited possible respiratory issues.”

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s giant female panda Mei Xiang gave birth to the first cub this past Saturday at 5:35 pm, and to the second cub just hours later.

“This is a hard loss for us,” zoo director Dennis Kelly said during a press conference. “Going forward we are going to focus our attention on the remaining cub and give it the best care possible.”

Dr. Donald Neiffer, the chief veterinarian of the zoo, said staff noticed that the health of the smaller cub took a turn for the worse following a routine swap from mom to incubator. He added that the team would routinely switch out the cubs from the mother’s care, allowing one to nurse with Mei Xiang, while the other is fed and nurtured by zoo staff.

Neiffer said the larger cub is doing well and is in its mother’s care.

Zoo officials said pathologists will perform a necropsy on the 4-day-old cub within the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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