They gave New Orleans city officials an affordable plan to evacuate 30,000 low-income, elderly and homeless people, said New Orleans attorney Val Exnicios.
But city officials failed to put it in play come crunch time, he claims.
Exnicios blames city officials for botching an evacuation plan in place as needy evacuees disappeared during Hurricane Katrina.
"I can tell you unequivocally I watched Mayor (C. Ray) Nagin lie on CNN when he said there was never a plan to evacuate these people," Exnicios said. "For whatever reason no one pulled the trigger and instituted the emergency evacuation plan we came up with."
The proposed emergency evacuation plan put together by a coalition of private citizens and public officials called for trains and buses to transport about 30,000 evacuees out of the city.
Amtrak agreed to provide passenger cars free while the Regional Transit Authority agreed to supply buses, said Rusty Wirth, director of the New Orleans Mission.
"We gave the plan to the city and they said it's a really good idea and then they sat there and twiddled their thumbs and never took the steps to put it in motion," Wirth said. "The Friday before the hurricane we had a meeting with the Red Cross and held training sessions for evacuation with the trains but it never got that far along."
...Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Exnicios and Zainey met with [Joseph Matthews, New Orleans chief of the Office of Emergency Preparedness], who assured them buses would be provided to evacuate the homeless from New Orleans.
"We sat across the table from him and Matthews said, 'Don't worry about it. It's done. I guarantee you we'll have buses and or trains available.' We both left happy," said Exnicios. "It was a tragic comedy as it turns out..."