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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 097-99
March 10, 1999

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHENREGARDING TRAGEDY AT CAVALESE

"There is widespread media coverage of recent comments by Capt. Richard Ashby regarding the cause or causes of the tragedy at Cavalese, Italy, in which 20 people were killed. Captain Ashby was speaking only for himself. He does not speak for the Department of Defense or the U. S. Marine Corps.

President Clinton said last Friday very clearly, 'the United States is responsible for this terrible tragedy.'

"The United States is working diligently and cooperatively with the Italian government to ensure prompt and just remuneration of the victims' families. In addition, earlier today I appointed Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, former commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Command, to be the U.S. lead on the assessment directed by President Clinton and Prime Minister D'Alema of operational and safety measures implemented in the aftermath of the incident. Admiral Prueher will work in conjunction with appropriate Italian military officials.

"President Clinton and I have expressed many times to the people of Italy our profound regret and deep sorrow. All Americans share in the grief of the families who lost loved ones during this tragedy. The Department of Defense will continue to work closely with our strong partners and good friends in Italy as we address the issues that stem from this terrible event."