Emails provide insight as to how Walker's staff handled O'Donnell tragedy

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A 13-ton slab of concrete falls from Milwaukee County's O'Donnell parking structure and kills 15-year-old Jared Kellner as he is walking to Summerfest in 2010. At the time, now-Governor Scott Walker was Milwaukee's County Executive -- and thousands of emails from the private Gmail account of one of Walker's aides at the time, released on Wednesday, February 19th provide some insight as to how Walker's staff dealt with this tragedy.

Kellner was walking to Summerfest with his friend, Eric Wosinski, Eric's father Steve, and mother Amy. Amy Wosinski ultimately lost her leg after the concrete panel fell. Kellner was killed.

An email from Walker's Deputy Chief of Staff, Timothy Russell, sent shortly after the tragedy reads: "Where is SKW (Scott Walker)? This is going to be a problem, whether we did (or didn't do) anything or not. Barrett has already been there. Scott cannot be at a fundraiser or something like that. He'll be eaten alive."

The email from Russell to other staffers continues as Russell writes: "Perhaps grasping at straws, but there is a vacant parking space at the north end of the area where the slab was hung. Could a car have jarred it?"

A spokesperson with the Friends of Scott Walker Campaign replies: "Scott is down at the scene, and should be attached at the hip with Sheriff Clarke. He needs to lead and be on top of the entire situation. Scott needs to be front and center for the media."

As live television coverage of the tragedy continued, an email was sent from Russell to other staffers, reading: "Harold Mester, the County Board PR flak was just on Channel 6 expressing the chairman's concern about the backlog of maintenance and politicizing this. I strongly think SKW needs to shoot back at him with both barrels for politicizing this."

Another email from the Friends of Scott Walker Campaign to Kelly Rindfleisch - Walker's top aide at the time reads: "The political concern about blame for the tragedy is clear. Make sure there is not a paper anywhere that details a problem at all."

The next day, Rindfleisch responds to a friend, who asks what happened the previous day besides the parking lot falling on some kid. Rindfleisch responds: "That was our structure. The headlines are going to be 'Scott Walker kills 15-year-old.'"

Adding to the drama of the moments immediately following the tragedy, emails between staffers mention that they can't get a hold of Scott Walker because his cell phone had burned out. Instead, they had to go through another staffer who was apparently traveling with him.

In the O'Donnell parking structure case, a jury awarded $39 million to the families of Jared Kellner, and the Wosinskis in November of 2013.

Three days later, the jury was called back to court to determine whether Advance Cast Stone (which installed the parking structure's concrete panels) knew the shortcuts it used during the installation of concrete panels were done intentionally, with the knowledge of what could happen.

If that is the case, Advance Cast Stone's insurance company, Liberty Insurance would not have to cover the damages.

However, even if Liberty Insurance ends up covering the damages, the policy only covers up to $10 million. It’s not clear how much of the $39 million award Advance Cast Stone could pay after that.

The second phase of this case (to determine coverage of the $39 million) is set to begin in March, 2014.

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