Death toll estimates in towers' collapse vary by 1,800

Lists abound

New York stands by figure of 4,764

October 26, 2001|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - Six weeks after the twin towers collapsed, the companies and organizations feared to have sustained the greatest losses of life have completed their official count of their missing and presumed dead.

But the total - which includes those lost by Cantor Fitzgerald, the New York Fire Department, the more than 165 diners and staff at Windows on the World, as well as the passengers on the two planes - comes to 2,445.

Even when the unofficial and single-digit losses suffered by 125 other companies at the World Trade Center are added, as well as a group of victims not connected to any particular company, the total dead in the disaster reaches only about 2,950, according to a count by The New York Times.

That figure, sure to change in the days to come, is nonetheless about 1,800 fewer than the list of the dead and missing kept and updated daily by the city, which this week stood at 4,764.

City officials, who have lowered their number by about 500 over the past three weeks, refuse to offer projections on a final number as they continue to identify bodies, confirm deaths and sift through duplications and errors.

But explaining this yawning discrepancy a month and a half after Sept. 11 has become increasingly difficult for the New York authorities involved, as news organizations, government agencies and officials from the American Red Cross and New Jersey create their own lists of losses.

For some, including relief officials and researchers studying the disaster, the lingering puzzle of the numbers of dead and missing raises the question of whether the final total could be much closer to 3,000 than the once-anticipated highs of 5,000 to 6,000, figures that in many ways have taken hold in the public consciousness.

"Where are these people?" asked Luis Garcia, the American Red Cross administrator in charge of the grants being given to families of victims.

No one involved in accounting for the dead - the New York Police Department, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - knows of some additional company based at the World Trade Center that is likely to produce a large number of losses, much less anything on the scale of the hundreds lost by Cantor Fitzgerald or Marsh & McLennan.

There has also been no report of a large tour or other organized group of visitors that would number in the hundreds. And given the considerable success before the collapse of the towers in evacuating the ground level of the trade center complex and the concourses below, there have been no indications that hundreds of casual visitors died there.

From the start, the city has collected all reports of possibly missing people and, while its working number has fluctuated wildly, the New York Police Department has worked to confirm cases and rule out duplications and errors.

That effort has sliced the estimate of dead and missing from 6,700 to just below 4,800.

But throughout, citing privacy among other concerns, the city has said it will not release the list until its work is completed, and officials will not guess when. Officials have even denied their list to relief groups eager to get money to confirmed victims.

Any counts outside the Police Department tally could be inherently flawed, said Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Antenen, because no one has information on the missing from as many sources as the city or had 200 police officers working on confirming the accuracy of this list.

The New York Times, the Associated Press and USA Today each have lists that show totals in the 2,600-to-2,950 range for people missing or dead from the trade center attacks, including the 157 on the two planes. The AP and USA Today have used a variety of sources to arrive at their totals, from company lists to obituaries to news accounts.

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