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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 10:04 GMT
Cheney shooting delay under fire
American Vice-President Dick Cheney
Cheney has refused to comment publicly on the incident
The US administration faces questions over a delay in disclosing a shooting incident involving the vice-president.

Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured 78-year-old hunting companion Harry Whittington on Saturday while shooting quail on a ranch in Texas.

But his office only made the incident public on Sunday, and only after it was first reported by a local newspaper.

The White House says the delay occurred as staff first attended to the victim and gathered the facts of the incident.

It has emerged that Mr Cheney, an experienced hunter, did not have the correct licence for shooting quail, lacking a stamp for shooting upland game birds. His office says it was not informed of all stamps required for the shoot.

I think you can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job
White House spokesman Scott McClellan

AP reports he has only received a warning from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department over the missing stamp because the requirement only came into force five months ago and many hunters are unaware of the necessity.

US President George W Bush was informed of the accident about one hour after it occurred, and Secret Service officers also told the local Kenedy County sheriff.

Local paper scoop

However, the news was only made public on Sunday afternoon after Katharine Armstrong, the owner of the private ranch where the incident happened, said she was going to inform the local newspaper.

Ms Armstrong said she told Mr Cheney on Sunday morning that she was going to inform the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

She said the vice-president agreed and the newspaper subsequently broke the news on its website that afternoon.

Facing a phalanx of upset press corps reporters on Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "I think you can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job."

Pellets to remain

Ms Armstrong said Mr Cheney had turned round to shoot at a bird, unaware that Mr Whittington was behind him, and sprayed Mr Whittington with shotgun pellets.

A lawyer from Austin, Texas, Mr Whittington was initially treated at the ranch by medical staff who normally travel with the vice-president before being transferred by helicopter to Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Mr Whittington was hit in the cheek, neck and chest, but is said to be "alert and doing fine" in hospital.

The hospital's chief of emergency care, David Blanchard, said that the number of bird shot pellets lodged in Mr Whittington's skin, which he described as "more than I can count on the fingers of my hand, but less than 100," were such that doctors would not try to remove them.

Mr Blanchard said that Mr Whittington will probably have the pellets in his body for the rest of his life.

Mr Whittington's daughter, Sally, told the Dallas Morning News "It looks like chicken pox, kind of". "He was very, very lucky that nothing seriously was injured," she added.

The chief deputy sheriff for Kenedy County, Gilbert San Miguel, said the investigation into the shooting had not yet been completed, but that alcohol had not been a contributing factor and that the incident was being treated as a hunting accident.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the accidental shooting happened



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Dick Cheney
03 Sep 04 |  Americas
Cheney shoots man in hunt error
13 Feb 06 |  Americas
Cheney faces impropriety claims
06 Feb 04 |  Americas


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