Twitter Watches KMOV’s ‘Mass Casualty Event’ Report During Tornado Prove False

By Kevin Eck 

Friday night, when tornadoes swept through the St. Louis area, KMOV, the local CBS affiliate broke into its weather coverage with a report about ‘a mass casualty event’ at a nearby Holiday Inn.

Over the course of the night, viewers seemed to figure out KMOV’s initial report wasn’t true at the same time the station did. Twitter users picked up on the story as it unfolded and eventually the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put together a timeline tracking the story’s evolution. Here is a timeline we put together with the times of the KMOV reports along with twitter traffic.

8:30 p.m. –  Steve Templeton is updating viewers on the unfolding weather scene. He is interrupted by KMOV meteorologist Matt Chambers. “Steve, I have to stop you for just a moment,” says Chambers. “The folks back in the control room just tell me, and there will be more information on this shortly I’m sure, and this is an exact quote from the control room, ‘We have a mass casualty episode at the Holiday Inn in Earth City.'” Chambers adds, “What I can say right now is mass casualty event at the Holiday Inn in Earth City.”


8:30 p.m. – Viewer Stephen Bolen tweets, “Mass casualty at the Holiday Inn in Earth City, per KMOV. #stlwx

8:41 p.m. – Andy Carvin, senior strategist at NPR, tweets, “Apart from KMOV, is anyone else reporting a “mass casualty event” at the Earth City, MO Holiday Inn? Can’t find independent sources.”

Keep in mind Bolen lives in St. Louis. Carvin told TVSpy he lives in Washington, D.C.

8:52 p.m.Another viewer tweets, “I really wish @kmov would stop saying “mass casualties” without more information…”

9:01 p.m. – The station goes to Chris Stanford at the Holiday Inn in Earth City. “You’re looking here at the Earth City Holiday Inn,” Stanford tells viewers with flashing lights of emergency vehicles behind him. “A number of emergency personnel on scene treating some of the victims. We’ve seen panels of part of the hotel kind of strung about this area so we’re not sure yet the extent of the damage to the building, how many people were hurt or if there are causalities how many people lost their lives in this tornado here in Earth City.”

9:02 p.m. – NBC affiliate KSDK tweets, “Despite reports to the contrary, we have heard no “mass casualty” reports in St. Louis County.”

9:04 p.m. – St. Louis County Office of Emergency Management tweets, “We have NO confirmation of casaulties at the Holiday Inn in Earth City yet. Pattonville Fire is on scene.”

9:13 p.m. – KMOV goes back to Chris Stanford at the Holiday Inn. “This Holiday Inn did sustain some damage,” says Stanford. “Although, I talked with an employee inside who said that he’s been up and down the hotel throughout the whole thing and that no one has been hurt here. There are no casualties to report here. That it’s actually the Holiday Inn Express on the South side of Interstate 70.”

9:14 p.m.KTVI, the St. Louis FOX affiliate, tweets, “HOLIDAY INN – Large police presence – damage in the area of Earth City – still waiting to get more details.”

9:33 p.m. – Alertpage Inc., which bills itself as a “Realtime Public Safety News and Alerts. Police Fire EMS” tweets, “UPDATE North St Louis County Pattonville/Earth City, the Holiday Inn is the STAGING area for 3rd Alarm response to tornado, NOT affected.”

9:51 p.m. – KMOV’s Steve Savard at the news desk tells viewers, “Remember there have been conflicting reports about the holiday that’s on Rider trail.” This is the Holiday Inn Express referred to by Stanford at 9:13 p.m. as having been hit by the tornado. “That’s just about a block North of Interstate 70 intercity about two blocks away from Rams Park. There are no reports of injuries there right now.  But they are checking the fourth floor of the Holiday Inn on Rider Trail for a possible collapse.”

10:32 p.m.  – KMOV’s Lauren Trager tells viewers the reason there were so many emergency vehicles in front of the Holiday Inn Chris Stanford reported from initially. “I know Chris Stanford mentioned a little bit earlier that there were a lot of emergency vehicles here and that is because this has now become the staging area for the emergency response throughout this entire area.

June 1 – Andy Carvin tweets, “Yet another twitter rumor spread because of poor initial reporting by mainstream media:  #stlwx

KMOV has not responded to TVSpy request for comment. The times shown on the tweets are in ET.

[David Sheets]