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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Greyhound Bus Crashes in Tennessee After Driver's Throat Cut

Aired October 3, 2001 - 08:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, we're tracking some breaking news this morning. A Greyhound bus crashed in central Tennessee. At least six people were killed after a passenger apparently slit the throat of the driver. Immediately subsequent to that, the Greyhound buslines stopped all service nationwide, they say as a precaution.

CNN's Frank Sesno joining us now with further details on all this from Washington -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles I want to point out a couple things. Just a few moments ago, I got off the phone with a U.S. government officials who is closely tracking the situation in Tennessee, and had important things to say, I think, given the overall, mood of the country and the questions raised by this incident in Tennessee.

First, he said -- and I'm quoting -- "officials say at this time they have no reason to associate this in any way with the activities of three weeks ago," meaning the World Trade Center attack. He said, and again, I'm quoting, "It would be a real leap to try to tie three weeks ago to somebody taking a bus in the middle of Tennessee. There is, in his words, no reason to assume this is some kind of related terrorist incident. I asked, specifically, if there had been any intelligence, any suspicion, that buses in the country had been targeted, that there were any specific and credible threats. That is the language that had been used, and this official said flatly, no, there had been no specific and credible threats or intelligence that anything has been directed against buses. Now that being said, this official said, the investigation is underway, and it cannot be pronounced definitively as to exactly what took place in Tennessee.

As you know, Kelli Arena reported earlier that the FBI is taking the lead role, because buses are an interstate, activity.

But Kelli tells me now that she is being told that if the Federal Bureau of Investigation finds no federal violation, they will turn this investigation back over to state and local officials.

The federal official I spoke with a moment ago said Greyhound, in his words, has stopped national service as a precautionary measure, in part because they don't want to set up any kind of perception that they either not taking things seriously, that they would be soft on crime, or that there could be a liability issue here down the line. But to repeat, Miles, given the seriousness of what's taken place in Tennessee and national stop for the moment on Greyhound activity, officials saying, no indication, no suggestion whatsoever that this is tied, at this time anyway, to the activities of three weeks ago, that terrible terrorist attack in New York and Washington.

O'BRIEN: Frank, with all those caveats in mind, when you spoke to this federal official, when you see Greyhound just systematically stopping service immediately, of course there are a lot of people suspicions are aroused, and that could be simply symptomatic of the atmosphere in this country, and it would be understandable, given all of that. Did you get a sense of a level of urgency that federal officials are taking this, perhaps reading between lines a little bit?

SESNO: Well, in fact, Miles, what I'm told is that what you said is exactly the case, that given the situation in the country, given the nervousness that people have, given the degree of vigilance that all federal agencies, and businesses and private individuals have maintained since the tragedies of about three weeks ago, this is par for the course, and that it is a precautionary measure.

The investigation is under way. In fact, the federal officials do not have confirmation yet, official confirmation, that what we are reporting, and that what a bus passenger told one, you know, a local television station, that the drivers throat was slit, is in fact the case. The investigation is in hyperdrive right now. They are moving as quickly as they can. The Department of Transportation, the FBI, moving special teams to the site, along with the local law enforcement that you see there. So everybody is moving as quickly as they can. And of course, as you say, ideas first leaped to perhaps a worse-case scenario because of psychology of the country right now.

But the word is that there is no specific and credible threat or reason to go there, at least not yet.

O'BRIEN: And I guess it is worth underscoring this point that we are, at this point, talking about an isolated incident. We have no reports of any other sorts incidents on any other bus this morning, in this country.

SESNO: Well, again, quoting the individual I spoke with just a few minutes ago, he says, given what they've got right now, if anything, this may be a disturbed person, an isolated outbreak, one of those terribly tragic things on one of these buses that has taken place, but given the place that the whole country, the whole world is in right now, he felt that it was important to make the point that he made to me, that this is not tied to anything at this time.

O'BRIEN: All right, important clarification. Thank you very much, CNN's Frank Sesno, for shedding some more light on all of this.

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