LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Firefighters Controlling Apartment Blaze Started by Plane Crash
Aired June 6, 2003 - 19:25 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: We're going to take you live back to California to Los Angeles. We're following that fire. We got an early report about a plane nose diving into a building. Want to check in with Dan Lothian with CNN News on the scene.
Dan, what can you tell us?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESONDENT: Well, I'm now walking up to that apartment building. I'm less than a block away and it's thoroughly gutted at this point.
Fire breaking out less than an hour ago here. I just got confirmation from a police officer here at the scene who told me that it appears that a small plane did crash into the building. I also am standing next to a man, his name is Steve Smith, and we have to keep walking along -- Steve, tell me, your wife saw the plane go into the building?
STEVE SMITH, WITNESS: Yes, she was sitting in the backyard with a friend, and saw a small plane descending, nose down.
LOTHIAN: So it did not appear that the plane was flying? Did it appear the thing was out of control?
SMITH: You know, I ran down here as soon as it happened, so I didn't get the great details. She just said, "I saw the plane going down. I heard the engine sounding funny, and the nose downward and it went out of sight, and I heard it crash."
LOTHIAN: Do you know if there are a lot of people who live inside that building, and did you see those people coming out?
SMITH: Well, I know a large man had claimed that his back -- jumped out a window, and there were people on the ground that caught him. And he seemed to have neck injuries. Another man that jumped out of the window and was pretty badly burned on the hands and on his head.
LOTHIAN: And have they taken a lot of those people away now? Do you believe that others are still inside that building?
SMITH: I have no idea if anybody's inside. Some just left in an ambulance.
LOTHINA: When you saw what happened here, and when your wife saw what was happening, what went through your mind? What did you think was going on?
SMITH: A terrorist attack. And as I got closer to the flames, I was afraid it was going to be Fairfax High School, which is only a block away. But, you know, at this point I think it was just an accident. This is the flight path for landing at Santa Monica Airport, where small airplanes land. We have small planes going over us all the time.
LOTHIAN: OK, great. Thank you very much.
I am now spinning around just right across the street from the building. It's still smoldering. A victim, what looks like a man, I am not a hundred percent sure, that person is being carried off on a stretcher right now. We're told that more than 55 fire trucks and emergency apparatus are here on the scene. And of course, countless police officers, as well.
We don't know what the extent of the damage is in terms of the injuries to those who were inside the building. We don't know how many people were inside the building. But what I can tell you at this point is that the building is still burning. Firefighters are still attacking the fire. And at least one victim just was brought by the position where I'm standing here.
And then, of course, unconfirmed reports from the neighbor who was just talking to me, that at least others were injured in this fire, as well.
It is a three-story apartment building. I don't know exactly how many apartments are in there. But certainly, more than a dozen apartments, just by what I can see here from the street. We don't know how many people were inside when the fire did break out.
But once again, police officer here on the scene telling us that it does appear that a single-engine plane did crash into this apartment building.
A few minutes ago there was one report with an official from the closest airport here, which is Santa Monica Airport. They were asking him if he knew anything at all about a plane that was supposed to land there, a plane that may have taken off from there that would have landed -- or put that plane over this particular area.
He said that to his knowledge, there was no plane that took off from their airport headed in this direction, or was headed to their airport that would have put them over this particular spot. But he said it does not preclude that a plane could have been passing through the area, or took off some other time, and then ended up here. So once again, confirmed report that a small plane, we've heard reports of a single-engine plane, did crash into this three-story apartment building...
COOPER: OK, Dan...
LOTHIAN: ... Of course, the witness here telling us that it seemed like the plane was just out of control, spiraling down into the building.
COOPER: All right. Dan Luthian, reporting for CNN on the scene. Dan, thanks very much.
We have been covering this thing really from a few moments ago, about ten minutes ago when we first started getting these images.
We want to talk to both Bob Franco, who is with the fire department. As soon as we get him on the mic we're going to bring him in.
But what we know, according to witnesses, off the Associated Press, reporting that a small plane, one witness recorded by the Associated Press said it just did a nosedive right into this building. Earlier we saw the top story part of the top story of this building on fire. Firefighters, dozens of firefighters in the area. Some on the roof actively battling the blaze.
Last report we had over the wire was that the blaze seemed to be under control. Certainly, the pictures you're seeing right now would indicate that. I don't see any active flames. Sure is a lot of smoke, though.
Also curious about the number of injuries. The Associated Press reporting that there were some 30 units inside this building. It was a residential building.
We're going to go now to Bob Franco, the Los Angeles Fire Battalion Chief.
Chief Franco, what can you tell us about this blaze?
BOB FRANCO, FIRE BATTALION CHIEF: Yes, hello.
I'm sorry, go ahead.
COOPER: We're told this blaze started by a small plane crashing into it. What can you tell us about it?
FRANCO: That's correct. Our initial report was a plane into a building and just due to the nature of the call we stepped up our resources coming in initially. And when we got on scene there was a three story apartment house and eyewitness accounts put a small plane that did crash into the upper floor. It caused a very extensive fire which spread very rapidly due to -- we originally suspected due to the fuel in the plane. It was very intensely burning. Fire coming from every window of that third floor.
COOPER: Chief Franco, we saw one person being led away on a gurney into an ambulance. I'm told there was a triage unit set up. I know there were about 30 units in this building, according to the Associated Press.
How many injuries do you have? How serious are they?
FRANCO: Well, at this point in time we have at least 10 serious injuries with other minor ones that we're trying to assess at this time. Five of those 10 were listed as critical and they've received serious burns, as well as other types of injuries, and we're transporting them to the local hospitals now.
COOPER: At this point, is it fair to say you have the fire under control?
FRANCO: Yes, absolutely. We are getting a good control of the fire itself. We're doing a secondary search of all the floors, entering each apartment individually, checking every nook and cranny, making sure we've got everybody out. But the fire is subsiding. We do have hose lines inside and units on the roof. So we're expecting to get a handle on this very shortly.
COOPER: L.A. Fire Battalion Chief Bob Franco, thanks for joining us.
I know you've got a lot of work to do. We'll let you go to it.
We will continue following the story here at CNN and bring you any updates as warranted over the next two hours.
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