By KATHRYN GARCIA AND JAIME POWELL
Scripps Howard News Service
February 13, 2006
None in the hunting party was drinking alcohol, said the owner, Katharine Armstrong.
"No, zero, zippo and I don't drink at all," she said. "No one was drinking."
Armstrong said that after Saturday's accident, the priority was to address the injuries of 78-year-old Harry Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, Texas.
"The sheriff came the next morning and took a statement." Armstrong said. "It did not even occur to me. It was not like somebody had robbed a filling station. It was not like a criminal thing."
Whittington was recovering in stable condition Monday after Cheney accidentally peppered him with shotgun pellets while hunting quail at the private 50,000-acre Armstrong ranch, which is 60 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. Also in the hunting party was Pam Willeford, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Whittington was "in stable condition doing extremely well" but likely will remain for several days at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial in Corpus Christi, hospital administrator Peter Banko said.
Medical personnel that accompanied Cheney to the ranch tended to the injured man before paramedics arrived, Armstrong said.
"He is doing great," Armstrong said of Whittington. "My sister had been up there. He's sitting up, talking, cracking jokes, razzing the nurses."
Armstrong said Whittington was injured to the right side of his lower face, neck, shoulder and chest. Whittington did not wish to comment Sunday.
"The vice president has visited with Harry Whittington at the hospital and was pleased to see he was doing fine and in good spirits," said Lea Anne McBride, spokeswoman for the vice president.
McBride, who confirmed the accident Sunday around noon, would not comment on whether the White House would have released the information had the Caller-Times not contacted them. The Caller-Times received a tip from a member of the Armstrong family Sunday morning, 18 hours after the incident occurred.
"I'm not going to speculate," McBride said. "When you put the call into me, I was able to confirm that account."
Armstrong said Cheney turned to shoot quail that had just flown away, accidentally peppering one side of Whittington's body. Armstrong said Cheney was unaware Whittington had approached him from behind.
"This is of course not something that you want to happen, but it does happen sometimes," Armstrong said. "It's a risk when any shooting sport is involved."
Whittington had stepped away from the hunting party to search for a downed quail and was within 30 yards of rejoining Cheney and another hunter, but had not made his presence known, when a second group of quail flushed, Armstrong said.
Cheney had picked out one of the quail, followed it with his gun and shot, inadvertently spraying Whittington with shotgun pellets, she said. She added that the sun was in his eyes.
Cheney, standing nearby, was apologetic as medical personnel tended to his wounds before paramedics arrived, she said.
All safety precautions were taken by the hunters, who were wearing bright orange vests, Armstrong said.
"Everybody behaved exactly as you would want them to," Armstrong said. "I hope this is a reminder to everyone to be safety conscious when enjoying the outdoors."
Armstrong ranch, purchased in 1885 and settled in 1882 by John Armstrong III, draws countless prominent visitors and has been in the influential South Texas family since it was settled. Katharine is the daughter of Tobin Armstrong, a high-profile rancher with political connections who died in 2005. Cheney was among the guests who attended his funeral.
Armstrong said Whittington holds no ill feelings toward Cheney and doesn't plan to sue.
"Oh, heavens, no," Armstrong said. "This happens, and my God, I've never seen a case of hard feelings. I bet this would deepen their friendship."
in Corpus Christi, Texas, at http://www.caller.com
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