The one thing you don’t mess around with in a tragedy is the body count. But yesterday morning during a press conference on the metro crash, Mayor Adrian Fenty did just that. Even though Metro and the Fire Department had confirmed that nine passengers had died in the Red Line accident, Fenty overruled those officials and confused everyone. Fenty decided presumably on his own that in fact only seven were confirmed dead.

Shortly after the press conference, the body count rose back to nine.

City Desk tried to figure out the discrepency yesterday. Was it a matter of government sources getting ahead of themselves? Was it simply a matter of confusion at the crash scene? Today, the Washington Post published a story which reveals the source of the mix up: Fenty.

The Post reports:

“The confusion over the number of casualties — even as Fenty stood with Metro officials at the news conference — emerged as a particular sore spot. A Metro source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials were debating whether they should count those dead people who had not been pulled from the wreckage, and Fenty apparently decided that he should not.

‘It indicates that we’re not really on top of it if we can’t count to nine,’ said Tony Bullock, senior vice president of Washington-based Ogilvy Government Relations, who was press secretary to Anthony A. Williams (D) when Williams was mayor.

Fenty said in an interview that he was using ‘an abundance of caution’ in releasing information and that he might have overdone it. ‘Obviously, there’s always things that could have been done differently,’ he said.”

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.