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'Early warning could have saved lives'

"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference...," concludes a panel report.

world Updated: Aug 30, 2007 19:29 IST

Virginia Tech officials might have saved lives if they had notified faculty and students sooner about the first two shootings on campus, concluded a panel investigating the April shootings that left 33, including two Indians, dead.

"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference... So the earlier and clearer the warning, the more chance an individual had of surviving," said the report, which was released late last night.

However, the report concluded that while alerts might have helped students and faculty to protect themselves or alert authorities of suspicious activity, a lockdown of the 131 buildings on campus was not feasible.

It would take 400-500 security officers to do the job, while only 14 of the school's 41 officers are on duty at 8 am on a week day, the report said.

Gunman Seung-Hui Cho was also an insider, a student with an ID card to access campus buildings and the ability to get the same messages as everyone else. He could have gained access to a dormitory or begun shooting people in the open, the report said.

"From what we know of his mental state and commitment to action that day, it was likely that he would have acted out his fantasy somewhere on campus or outside it that same day," the report said.

The eight-member panel, appointed by Governor Timothy M Kaine, spent four months investigating the shootings before releasing its report.

Panel chairman Gerald Massengill declined to comment on the contents of the report when reached on Wednesday night.

First Published: Aug 30, 2007 18:03 IST