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Louisiana Congressman Facing Bribery Investigation; Faulty Breathing Equipment in Kentucky Mine Explosion?; The Odds on Barbaro

Aired May 22, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More corruption allegations infecting Washington -- a lawmaker from Louisiana, a Democrat, accused of taking bribes and hiding the cold cash in his freezer.

ANNOUNCER: Frozen Dough -- another congressman in trouble with the law, after the FBI finds 90,000 bucks in his freezer.

Here it comes, a new hurricane season, a week-and-a-half away. Tonight, the official prediction. How bad is it?

Tragedy in a Kentucky mine -- did faulty breathing equipment make matters worse?

QUESTION: You think if the masks have worked, they would have survived?


ANNOUNCER: We're covering all the angles tonight.

And a Triple Crown contender suffers triple fractures. Tonight, after surgery, the life of a powerful thoroughbred is still in danger.


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks for joining us this Monday evening.

We begin tonight on Capitol Hill, where accusations of corruption have targeted yet another lawmaker, this time a Democrat. Congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans is being investigated by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee on allegations that he took bribes. Jefferson, though is fighting back. And he claims the FBI has overstepped its bounds.

CNN's congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman William Jefferson came back to Washington and his Capitol office the FBI raided over the weekend and insisted he is innocent.

REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUISIANA: There are two sides to every story. There are certainly two sides to this story.

BASH: FBI agents spent 18 hours in Jefferson's office, hunting overnight for evidence to back a bribery case the government's been building for 14 months against the eight-term Democrat. The congressman, who hasn't been charged with anything, won't tell his side of the story now.

JEFFERSON: My lawyers have advised me not to discuss -- and I will not discuss -- any of the alleged facts in the case.

BASH: But the government is telling its side of the story. This 82-page affidavit alleges, Jefferson, directly and through his family members, took more than $400,000 in bribes, plus an ownership stake in several companies, and used his office to help a small telecommunications company he had a stake in secure business in Nigeria and Ghana.

The court documents say federal investigators secretly videotaped the congressman outside this Virginia hotel, taking $100,000 in $100 bills from a businesswoman-turned-FBI-informant, according to a government official.

When FBI agents raided his Washington, D.C., home, three days later, they found $90,000 of that cash stuffed if a freezer in -- quote -- "various frozen food containers" and wrapped in aluminum foil.

The breathtaking narrative details multiple taped conversations with the informant, including Jefferson at one point laughing as he says, "All these damn notes we're writing to each other, as if we're talking as if the FBI is watching."

Jefferson even allegedly brokered corrupt deals in the congressional dining room, telling the informant that, if he helped her company, he wanted his daughters to get -- quote -- "5 to 7 percent ownership."

JEFFERSON: I expect to continue to represent the people who have sent me here.

BASH: The congressman says he won't resign, despite private pressure from Democratic leaders, who want to make corruption a campaign issue against Republicans. And he accused the FBI of crossing a constitutional line in raiding his congressional office.

JEFFERSON: No one has seen this in all the time of the life of the Congress. As far as I know, there's no real authority for it.

BASH: Searching a sitting lawmaker's office was unprecedented, and even Republicans are raising red flags. SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Concerning to me, and I have asked our counsel to advise us as to what a proper course of action is.

BASH: The attorney general defended the moves.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances.

BASH (on camera): It's unclear what FBI agents actually found. But a government official tells CNN they took the extreme step of searching Congressman Jefferson's office, because he ignored a subpoena for documents and information they issued eight months ago.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Well, it is a different story tonight for another New Orleans politician, also a Democrat, Mayor Ray Nagin. He is riding high after winning reelection. Nagin narrowly defeated challenger Mitch Landrieu in a run-off election on Saturday.

Nagin now says he's going to improve relations with officials that were strained in the storm's aftermath and promises to spend the first 100 days of his next term finding ways to speed up the recovery in New Orleans.

The next hurricane season, of course, is only 10 days away, and more evidence today it is going to be a rough one. The National Hurricane Center revealed its predictions.

CNN's Rob Marciano has them.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): The coming hurricane season isn't expected to be as bad as last year. But that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.


MARCIANO: Thirteen to 16 named storms, eight to 10 of those hurricanes, four to six of those hurricanes major, Category 3 or higher.

Katrina was a Category 3 when it hit the U.S. So were Dennis, Rita, and Wilma. There were 15 hurricanes last year, 28 named storms, far more than predicted, and one of the deadliest in history.

MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: If there is anything good that can come out of the last hurricane season -- and that's pretty hard to find -- I hope it's the motivation to help create a culture of preparedness. We have got to do a better job than we have been doing.

MARCIANO: Absent that culture of preparedness, Katrina killed more than 1,500 people and caused an estimated $100 billion in damage. Now, it seems, everyone is preparing.

DAVID PAULISON, ACTING DIRECTOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: What we have been doing at FEMA is fixing those issues that we saw that did not work well in Katrina, looking at all the logistics, how that having the right things at the right place at the right time is so important.

MARCIANO: But preparation isn't just about supplies. It's also understanding the risks posed by more hurricanes for at least a decade ahead.

MAYFIELD: It's not all about the numbers. It just takes that one hurricane over your house to make for a bad year. We're in this very active period for major hurricanes that may last at least another 10 to 20 years.

MARCIANO: So, whether it's the 2006 hurricane season or the next 20, if you live in the path of hurricanes, the forecast does not look good.

Rob Marciano, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Well, you can be sure the people in New Orleans are not taking the Hurricane Center's report lightly. They have seen what hurricanes can do and don't want a repeat of Katrina.

A new report, however, out today says that Katrina's destruction should not have been as bad as it was, and the report is pinning blame on the people responsible for the levee system.

Here's CNN's Sean Callebs.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Katrina was a powerful storm, but it shouldn't have caused so much devastation. Eighty percent of the flooding that destroyed New Orleans could have been prevented. That's according to an eight-month study by the National Science Foundation.

PROFESSOR ROBERT BEA, U.C. BERKELEY ENGINEERING: That's the essence of the story, is to say that undesirable, unanticipated breaching in the levees is what brought us to our knees.

CALLEBS: Bob Bea, a Cal Berkeley researcher, is one of the authors of the study. The report says three main factors led to the catastrophe.

Point one, Katrina was a major natural disaster. At its height, almost all the water that poured into the heart of New Orleans was driven south, down canals leading from Lake Pontchartrain. Scientists say the reason flood walls and levees gave way is simple.

BEA: Well, we were trying to do this in a cheap save, save money.

MARCIANO: Colonel Lewis Setliff, now in charge of the Corps' effort to improve flood protection, says lesson learned when it comes to funding.

COLONEL LEWIS F. SETLIFF III, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We didn't cut any corners. It's a much better, much stronger system. And it's much more resilient.

MARCIANO: Report point two, levee design, construction and maintenance failures. We now know that a design flaw allowed water to eat away soil far below the waterline. The Corps drilled pilings 17- and-a-half feet into the levees to guard against erosion. Scientists say that wasn't nearly deep enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we're driving them to deeper than 60 feet.

MARCIANO: The Corps of Engineers is still studying the independent report and says residents here deserve to know the painful facts.

SETLIFF: We need to tell the residents of New Orleans, the citizens of New Orleans, this is what happened, based on science, facts, engineering.

MARCIANO: Report point three, government inefficiency. Years of squabbling among local governments kept protective floodgates from going up earlier.

Bea knows firsthand about that. He lived in New Orleans in the '60s and saw his home flooded by Hurricane Betsy.

So, with the new flood protection plans going on, would he move back?

BEA: The answer is no. I wouldn't come back here and buy a house. I would come back here and rent a second-floor apartment, which says I would proceed cautiously.

CALLEBS (on camera): The scientists concluded that not only was all of the massive flooding predictable; it was preventable; that, for decades, warning signs were out there that were simply ignored.

Sean Callebs, CNN, in New Orleans.


COOPER: Well, it is just outrageous. It's an incredible statistic, when you think about it, that Sean mentioned. Eighty percent of the flooding could have been prevented, if politicians had listened. Perhaps if they had listened to my next guest, even more lives could have been saved. Ivor Van Heerden is the deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center. He's truly one of the heroes of Hurricane Katrina. He predicted this storm, though, as we know, of course, politicians didn't listen to him.

Ivor has written a compelling new book called "The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina - the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist."

I spoke to him earlier.


COOPER: I have said this to you off camera before. And just to say it on camera, I mean, I consider you really one of the heroes of this storm, because, in many senses, you were a canary in a cage years before this thing hit, warning people about what was to come.

A year before, more than a year before, with the Hurricane Pam report, you said, a slow-moving Category 3 hurricane or stronger could cause levee overtopping and complete flooding of New Orleans. You anticipated hundreds of thousands of people needing to be evacuated. I mean, it was all planned out. No one listened. Why?

IVOR VAN HEERDEN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY HURRICANE CENTER: I think there was a sense on the part of many government employees that this would never happen, you know, that this was a probability, but it was never going to happen. So, therefore, we just didn't need to pay too much attention to it.

COOPER: And, in fact, the city now of New Orleans has said that they have a plan now for this coming summer, but, you know, you start scratching away at the plan, you making a couple calls on it, and they talk about an Amtrak train to take out thousands of people.

Well, you call up Amtrak, and a contract hasn't been signed, and then, oh, yes, they don't have enough doctors to staff the train. And then they talk about buses, but they don't really have enough contracts for more than 100 buses. So, this is expected to be a very active hurricane season. If New Orleans is hit again, will it flood?

VAN HEERDEN: It will definitely -- if we had another Katrina, it would definitely flood.

Our Hurricane Center at LSU did an assessment of all the buses in New Orleans, in terms of how many people you could get out. We did this a number of years ago. And there aren't enough buses in New Orleans to even make a dent.

COOPER: During those terrible days after Katrina, you and I took a helicopter ride over New Orleans, looking at the levees. And, in many ways, we all, the public, we were being sold a bill of goods. We were being told the levees had overtopped for days.

And we were being told, this thing was unpredictable, unprecedented. You know, through your work, we know it was predicted. What did you learn from -- from that helicopter ride?

VAN HEERDEN: Well, I think the first thing was, when we flew over the 17th Street Canal, I could see green grass on the banks. And if the levees had been overtopped, the saltwater would have killed the grass. So, immediately, when I saw that green grass, I knew that the overtopping hadn't occurred there.

COOPER: It's also fascinating. You did really detective work of collecting clocks.

VAN HEERDEN: Well, you know, there were no eyewitness reports. And the best we had was video, hand video, home video from about an hour after one of the breaches.

So, by going along and collecting wind-up or battery-operated hand dial clocks, we could then establish times. Well, if we knew the height, we could then work out the water levels. And, in some cases, we feel we have got to within about five minutes of when the breach actually occurred.

COOPER: What do people need to know what about what happened and what could still happen in New Orleans?

VAN HEERDEN: The most important thing to recognize is that there are 125,000 families right now whose life changed like that. They don't have a home. They don't have a job. They have lost all their savings. They're basically destitute.

These are people, middle-class families, who evacuated. They didn't stay. They left. So, those are Americans who are now destitute as a result of the failure of the federal security system.

I think the other thing to recognize is, this could happen to New Orleans again. But it's not just New Orleans. It's Houston. It's Tampa Bay. It's Miami. It's New York, Long Island. Any of these areas could get one of these major storms with a big surge and have just as devastating flooding.


COOPER: Well, that was Ivor Van Heerden.

Last year was the busiest hurricane season on record. And Katrina was the worst of the storms, though not the deadliest in history. Here's the "Raw Data."

In 1900, before they began naming storms, a hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, killed between 8,000 and 12,000 people. The next deadliest hit Lake Okeechobee, Florida, 1928, 1,836 killed. Katrina ranks third, with a death toll of at least 1,531.

And, lest we forget, the number of missing right now, 449. That is down from more than 11,000 first reported missing after the hurricane, but 449 is still awfully high.

In a moment, the latest on Barbaro, the racehorse injured at the Preakness this weekend. The Kentucky Derby champion has undergone delicate surgery. We are going to show you the dramatic X-ray of his leg. You should see how many pins there are in that thing, and find out the prospects for this horse's recovery. It is still touch-and-go right now. We will have an update.

Also ahead, Saudi Arabia, they say they're our friends, right? So, why are their kids' textbooks filled with messages of hate? The Saudi government promised they would remove them. So, far the anti- Semitic and anti-Christian words remain. Tonight, we are "Keeping Them Honest."



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think about I'm going to have to do without him. I have just been with him since I was 16, the only man in my life I have ever known.


COOPER: The heartbreaking words from one of the widows of the coal mining disaster in Kentucky -- the latest on what caused the blast that killed five miners when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, people have been leaving messages of support for the Kentucky Derby champion, Barbaro, outside the University of Pennsylvania clinic where he's being treated. Those are some of the pictures, the messages people have left. He's, of course, being treated following his accident in Saturday's Preakness stakes.

Barbaro's career ended when bones in his leg just shattered. Now veterinary surgeons are struggling to try and make sure that his injury doesn't end his life.

Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This 3-year-old colt named Barbaro was a rising star, good-looking, strong, and very fast.

ANNOUNCER: Barbaro wins by seven!

CARROLL: Just a few weeks ago, he won the Kentucky Derby, and Barbaro could have done something that hasn't been done since Affirmed did it in 1978.

ANNOUNCER: Affirmed has got a nose in front as they come on to the wire!

CARROLL: Capture the Triple Crown, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. On Saturday, Barbaro was favored to win the Preakness. But in a world where everything is measured in seconds, the dream ended in one agonizing moment.

ANNOUNCER: Barbaro -- Barbaro, I believe he's being pulled up!

CARROLL: At the start of the race, Barbaro broke his leg. The cause is still unclear. He limped off the track, his hind leg clearly hurt. Doctors say his bone was shattered in more than 20 pieces. Veterinarians at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for large animals operated for hours to repair it.

DR. DEAN RICHARDSON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE: This is just the absolute first step in any type of case like this. I mean, getting the horse up is a big step. But it is not the last step, by any means.

MICHAEL MATZ, TRAINER: It's just amazing to see him walk like that. And the first thing, he went in and started eating hay, so, they did a terrific job.

CARROLL: Barbaro looked alert after his surgery, but his condition is still uncertain.

(on camera): At horse farms all over the country, like this one in Long Island, New York, owners and trainers are really pulling for Barbaro's full recovery.

Horse owner Joe Lostritto is back on his farm after the Preakness. His horse, Platinum Couple, was next to Barbaro when he was injured.

JOE LOSTRITTO, HORSE OWNER: My heart dropped. You cannot describe the moment. It's like you lost all your breath. You know, it just -- you cannot describe it.

CARROLL: Lostritto and his family know the pain of putting down a horse injured in a race. It happened to them twice. They believe Barbaro will pull through.

LEIGH BERKOWITZ, HORSE OWNER: He was committed to winning all his races, and I think he's a strong-minded animal, and I think he will make it.

CARROLL: A champion who faces his toughest challenge.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Long Island, New York.


COOPER: Earlier I spoke with a veterinary surgeon, Dr. Celeste Kunz, who brought along another horse, Half-life (ph), to show us more about where and how Barbaro was injured.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. CELESTE KUNZ, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF EQUINE PRACTITIONERS: The fracture was to the cannon bone. It involved the ankle. So, we call it a condylar fracture. Destabilization of the joint occurred, so the pastern was fractured. This is the pastern of the horse. There was also a fracture of the sesamoid. Sesamoids are located in the back of the ankle.

COOPER: And the actual joint was dislocated?

KUNZ: Yes. There was destabilization. So, it was actually a two-phased injury. First, the cannon bone fractures, and that destabilization causes the fracture of the pastern. And then it spirals downhill from there.

COOPER: We're looking at an X-ray of Barbaro's leg. And I know you have seen it before.

It's -- I mean, it's kind of a shocking picture. There's a pin. There's 23 screws. What are all those screws for?

KUNZ: Those screws are to hold the metal plate to the bone. So, he's virtually standing with the assistance of that plate. Now, over time, his bones will fuse. So, there will be no motion in that joint. But that will be fine. He can still walk, run and play. That's providing that we don't have any complications.

COOPER: Well, what are doctors most worried about right now that the surgery is over?

KUNZ: Well, there's a lot of hardware in that joint. So, we're hoping that we can prevent infection. He has some very strong pharmaceuticals on board, in order to prevent that. We're watching his temperament.

We want him to be just like he would be on a regular basis. We want him to eat well. We want him to nicker to other horses. We want him to lay down, get up, walk around the stall. He has to be able to use all four legs. He has to be able to distribute his weight equally.

COOPER: Yes, the horse behind you is kind of shifting around. And I know, for horses who have been injured, it's particularly important that their weight is evenly distributed, correct?

KUNZ: That's true, because the horse's whole physiology is based around their circulation of their lower limb. So, his gastrointestinal system, his circulatory system, is dependent on his mobility. It's much different than for us or much different for a small animal.

COOPER: And how can you tell that the horse may be in pain?

KUNZ: Well, we want to manage his discomfort. If you have ever had -- if you have ever broken your leg -- and I know I have -- it's uncomfortable. But we give him certain pharmaceuticals, so that we can manage him. We don't want him so comfortable that he wants to jog in his stall.

But we want him to be able to manage that. And he's an amazing horse. Not only is he an amazing athlete, but he's a great patient, and he's very tolerant. And that's important. The temperament of the horse, the individual, is very important for the outcome of this surgery as well.

COOPER: And -- and, I mean, we have been hearing a lot that horses with injuries like this -- and it's an uncommon injury -- are typically euthanized. Is that true?

KUNZ: Well, he was -- on a scale of one to 10, he was a 9.9. He was in that small gray zone that we can actually cheat death, if you will.

But, in my experience, we have done this procedure not only on top-class horses, but on some horses of very modest value. We, as track veterinarians, our mission is to try to save every horse. And we approach every injury exactly the same. We evaluate it. We manage it on the racetrack. We try to reduce the fracture, as they did in Maryland, move him, by horse ambulance, to a safe place, reevaluate with X-rays, and see what our options are.

And, luckily, we were left with some raw materials to work with.

COOPER: Well, it's an incredible procedure, and a complicated one.

Dr. Kunz, appreciate you talking about it. Thank you.


COOPER: Well, coming up, what Saudi Arabia doesn't want you to know they're teaching their kids. Remember more than three years ago when Saudi Arabia promised to change their textbooks, you know the ones that teach Saudi kids to hate Jews and Christians? Well, guess what? They -- we have found out that they haven't changed them. Tonight, we are "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, another coal mine explosion leaving more miners dead and raising some troubling questions.

Across America and around the world, you are watching 360.


COOPER: Books that may be deadly -- they teach Saudi children to hate.

We are "Keeping Them Honest" -- next on 360.


COOPER: In southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military bombed several buildings today which it says were being used by Taliban fighters. As many as 80 people were killed, including an undetermined number of civilians. It is one of the deadliest strikes since the American-led toppling of the Taliban in 2001.

U.S. commanders say the Taliban has come back stronger this year than last year, intimidating the locals, flashing more money and weapons, and attacking more often with their rock-style roadside bombs.

Now to Saudi Arabia and a story that we have been following since just after the 9/11 attacks. After we knew that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, we also knew this, that textbooks used in Saudi schools to teach children were filled with words of hate, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian messages, many of them condoning violence, essentially teaching a new generation of Saudi kids to hate us.

So, three-and-a-half years ago, Saudi officials promised to revise the textbooks, to remove the words of hate. But a new report finds that they haven't done what they promised. In fact, very little has changed.

CNN's John Roberts tonight "Keeping Them Honest."


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A curriculum of intolerance is how a new report from the democracy watchdog group Freedom House describes what Saudi students are being taught, childhood lessons on religious hatred that Freedom House scholars say could be a breeding ground for terrorism.

Ali Al-Ahmed was the lead researcher for the project.

ALI AL-AHMED, INSTITUTE FOR GULF AFFAIRS: This issue is very urgent. It is part of the war on terrorism, because in order to stop the flow of terrorists, you must go to the source, and this is the source of extremism and terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

ROBERTS: The report points to lessons in Saudi textbooks, like this first-grade reader that states, "Every religion other than Islam is false," or this eighth grade textbook: "The apes are Jews, while the swine are the Christians."

And this ninth-grade lesson: "The clash between this community and Jews and Christians has endured and it will continue as long as God wills."

But what's most troubling, according to the report's authors, is that these lessons linger, despite complaints the State Department's Karen Hughes took directly to Saudi leaders last year and repeated assurances by Saudi officials since then that textbooks had been purged of hateful and intolerant language.

NINA SHEA, CENTER FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The report is telling us that the Saudis have not lived up to their promises.

ROBERTS: There have been revisions to the textbooks. This March report from the Saudi embassy to congress pointed out some 20 examples with more to come.

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: The whole system of education is being transformed from top to bottom. Textbooks are only one of the steps.

ROBERTS: But critics say the revisions are subtle. For example, in this fourth grade textbook they translated, the original decree that Muslims must hate the infidels and be hostile to them now reads, "hate the infidels but do not be unjust to them."

SHEA: I believe that's a smoke screen, and I think that's intended for them to come back to America and say, look, we've corrected the textbooks. We've scrubbed them. We've sanitized them of all the hate speech and hate ideology.

ROBERTS: And the textbooks are not just being used in Saudi Arabia. They're prevalent in Muslim religious schools around the world. They also form the curriculum at the Islamic Saudi Academy 12 miles south of the nation's capital. One of that school's former students, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is in prison, a 30-year sentence for conspiring with Al Qaeda to assassinate President Bush.

ALI AH-AHMED, INSTITUTE FOR GULF AFFAIRS: Saudi Arabia does not only export oil, it also exports ideology. And in order to stem a flow of that toxic ideology, we must reform the Saudi textbooks.

ROBERTS: Saudi officials refused our request for an interview but did tell us off camera that reform of the curriculum in textbooks is an ongoing process. The state department, which critics complain hasn't done enough to follow through, believes the Saudis are making progress, but say it's clear there are still concerns out there. John Roberts, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Fascinating.

2006 has been an unusually deadly year for coal miners, and this weekend it got even worse. Five miners died in Harlan County, Kentucky, three of them after surviving the initial explosion. Well remember how after Sago, a lot of officials promised action so these kind of deaths wouldn't happen again, well tonight, what happened to those promises and what really killed these miners?

Also tonight, a 7-year-old makes history swimming from Alcatraz. An unbelievable little kid, he swam all the way to the mainland. How he did it when "360" continues.


COOPER: So remember after the mining disaster in Sago, all those promises about making sure an accident like that would never happen again? Well, it did happen again. This weekend, two miners were killed in a blast. Three more died of carbon monoxide poisoning after the blast. And there are accusations now that all of it could have been prevented. CNN's Rick Sanchez investigates. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The explosion ripped through a mine shaft in eastern Kentucky's coal country, instantly killing two of the six miners inside. We can't go on the property itself, but witnesses who've been there say the blast was so powerful. It actually ripped holes in canisters that were 100 yards from the opening of the shaft. A nearby building was also sprayed with mud and debris.

JEFF LEDFORD, BROTHER PAUL SURVIVED EXPLOSION : When the explosion happened, it feels like when the rock comes down when (INAUDIBLE), it sends a shockwave and you feel it through your body.

SANCHEZ: Jeff Ledford, who's now on permanent disability, knows the danger of coal mining firsthand. His spine was crushed in a mine in 1991. Five years later, he lost his brother in a mining accident, and now his other brother, Paul, was among those trapped by the Saturday morning blast.

LEDFORD: He said if I'm going to die I'm going to die getting out. And so he went, turned around and went back the other way and started crawling out.

SANCHEZ: And by crawling out, Paul Ledford became the lone survivor of the Darby mine explosion. He's explained to Jeff how he got out and what happened inside. Darby mine number one runs 11,500 feet into the mountain. The explosion, that instantly killed two miners, occurred somewhere near the midpoint, when a pocket of naturally occurring methane mixed with air and somehow ignited. Investigators are trying to find out why.

LEDFORD: Methane is a gas. It's odorless and it's tasteless. And it just seeps out into the mines. And you'll be cutting coal, and (INAUDIBLE) if it's built up in there, if you don't have adequate air supply in there, it explodes if you get a spark, any kind of spark.

SANCHEZ: Even after the explosion, four of the miners remained alive, spared because they were working at the far end of the shaft. All four tried heading back out to the entrance, but they were blocked by a cave-in near the site of the explosion. Three of the miners chose to go no further and wait it out, using their oxygen masks. It was a decision, Ledford says, that sealed their fate. The miners' bodies were found huddled together. All three died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Did their breathing equipment fail? The investigators say they don't know yet. But Jeff Ledford says, his brother's did fail.

LEDFORD: He had it on, but he said it only lasted five minutes.

SANCHEZ: Five minutes?

LEDFORD: Five minutes, that's all.

SANCHEZ: It's supposed to last at least an hour?

LEDFORD: 30 minutes to an hour. SANCHEZ: So how did Paul Ledford survive? After failing to convince others to go with him, he crawled until he got 2,000 feet from the mine's entrance, and there he passed out for two and a half hours.

LEDFORD: He woke back up and he went about 30 or 40 more feet, and he laid down because he was weak and tired. Then he laid there for about 20 minutes, got up and started crawling again.

SANCHEZ: Then Paul Ledford tells his brother he saw a light. It was a flashlight from one of the rescuers who carried him out of Darby mine number one where Ledford says he'll never go back again.


COOPER: Rick, really two questions for you. Do they know what caused the explosion, and when will they know whether the breathing equipment worked or not?

SANCHEZ: Well first of all, the methane gas when combined with any kind of oxygen becomes a combustible gas. You still need some form of ignition though and those workers working the graveyard shift were in there late at night and early morning to fix the equipment so the next miners would come in the following morning and work the equipment. In the process, one of their tools, in fixing the equipment, family members have told me, they suspect is what probably caused the spark that then ignited the methane combined with the oxygen itself.

As to the other part of your question, some of the folks here are saying they're still trying to figure out if indeed those oxygen masks, that breathing apparatus that they wear, did not work, a lot of the folks here are angry because they think they didn't. But investigators are telling us it all depends on when they get the coroner's time of death. After they found out exactly when they died, then they can do a back time to find out how long or how much oxygen they actually had. Then they'll be able to know whether they worked or didn't work. But as you heard in my story, Mr. Ledford says his only worked for five minutes. It's supposed to work for one hour. Anderson?

COOPER: It's sickening that this is happening again and still no answers from what happened in Sago, really, from that investigation. Rick, appreciate that. We're going to talk about the Sago mine disaster coming up in the next hour as well.

Mining disasters like the one that occurred in Holmes Mill seem like they should be troubles of the past with all the technology. For some families, however, they are still too current and frequent. Coming up, we're going to hear from those who've lost loved ones in Harlan County and how they endure.

And on a far lighter note, a young boy who escaped Alcatraz. Well, actually, the horse wasn't swimming to success. We'll have more on the condition of Barbaro coming up. But also, the remarkable story of a 7-year-old kid who swam from Alcatraz to the mainland. He's entered the record books. 7 years old. Unbelievable. His story when "360" continues.


COOPER: Well, as you heard just before the break, a small town in Kentucky is struggling right now to come to grips with the unthinkable. The coroner's report suggests that three of the five men who were killed in this weekend's mine explosion actually survived the blast, only to die from poisoned air. The trapped miners were using air packs that some have questioned the safety of. CNN's Gary Tuchman talked to some of the victims' families.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twilight in Appalachia. A community in mourning. The coal mine where five men died is right across the street from this church in Harlan County, Kentucky. How hard will it be for your community to heal?

PASTOR MIKE BLAIR, CLOVERFORK BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, it's going to be a slow process. You know? Because, I mean, this is one of the most devastating things that has really hit our communities.

TUCHMAN: Paris Thomas worked in the mines for a quarter century. His wife, Tilda, and his daughter, Tracy, who had a baby and is pregnant with a second grandchild, got a visit in the early morning hours of Saturday.

TILDA THOMAS, HUSBAND DIED IN MINING ACCIDENT: I felt sick and lost and like I was going to pass out when I first got out of the bed and seen that guy standing at my door to tell me.

TUCHMAN: Paris Thomas was one of the five miners killed in the mine.

THOMAS: Then when you lose your husband, I think about all I'm going to have to do without him. I've just been with him since I was 16. The only man in my life I've ever known.

TUCHMAN: Here in Harlan County with a shrinking population of 32,000, where the living is extremely remote in Kentucky's highest elevation, most men work in mining or a related industry. On the porch of a modest home near the mine, Shelby Whitman tells us how her heart aches for these victims. And how 30 years ago, she, too, got a knock on the door, followed by the words "your husband has died in a mine accident."

SHELBY WHITMAN, WIDOW: I said, no, that's not right. I said he'll be home in a little while. And he said, you know, he's gone.

TUCHMAN: So I take it that you know what these people are going through right now, these families? What advice can you give them?

WHITMAN: Well, if it hadn't been for the Lord, I couldn't have made it, and my family. My family was a big support to help me.

TUCHMAN: Tilda Thomas' grandson turned 1 year old on the day his grandfather was killed. Tracy is expecting her second child, another boy next month and will name him after her father.

THOMAS: She was daddy's little girl all the time.

TRACY NORTH, FATHER DIED IN MINING ACCIDENT: I don't know what I'll do without him.


COOPER: God, it's so heartbreaking, Gary. There is obviously pain in their tears. Is there anger also in this community about what happened?

TUCHMAN: People are very disturbed here, Anderson, but they're also very diplomatic. They don't want the mining industry to leave. They don't want to make it tougher for the mining industry. They need these jobs. In this part of Kentucky, without the mining industry, they don't have many jobs.

COOPER: And that's of course, I mean that's the horrible position so many people are in because clearly there are safety procedures which could be installed. I mean, there could be air tanks that have more than just an hour's worth of air, but all of that costs money, and all of that, you know, it's such a delicate balance that I guess a lot of these communities are fearful that these mining companies are going to just close down the mine. Then, of course, they're hit hard. It's just a horrible position to be in. Gary Tuchman, appreciate your report. Thank you. It was really nicely done.

Coming up, a truly remarkable tale of determination. Take a look at this. A little boy, 7 years old and he's done something simply stunning. Swimming solo from Alcatraz. Why and how he did it coming up.

Plus, a traditionally secret order gets what it says is welcome publicity because of "The Da Vinci Code." A rare look inside the masons when "360" continues.


COOPER: Well, on the island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, it was home to a federal prison. More than a few would be escapees dreamed of breaking out and swimming to the mainland. At least two and as many as seven men are believed to have tried and drowned. Strong tides, frigid waters and just plain lack of endurance probably helped to do them in. All of which makes today's accomplishment by a 7-year-old worthy of all the attention he's getting. And he's getting a lot of attention. Here's CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of 7-year-olds are just learning how to swim, but Braxton Bilbrey pretty much has it figured out.

On Monday, the Arizona second grader put on his little wet suit and dove into the frigid San Francisco Bay. Escaping from Alcatraz took on a whole new meaning. Was it easy?


SIMON: Piece of cake?


SIMON: Braxton came up with the idea when he read a magazine article mentioning a 9-year-old had the record for being the youngest to swim from Alcatraz. That's when the competitive juices started flowing.

BILBREY: I have been competitive all my life. And I like to beat, like, pretty much everybody if I can.

SIMON: Braxton's dad says he wasn't so sure about the idea that is until they threw him into a lake, a sort of tryout.

STEVE BILBREY, BRAXTON'S FATHER: He swam about a mile and a quarter, I think, his first swim. And there was no problems whatsoever.

SIMON: And there was no problem Monday either. Braxton swam the mile and a quarter in about 45 minutes. He had his coach and a few other adult swimmers at his side just in case of any problems. What does it mean to break the record?

BILBREY: Well, I think it's pretty cool to break it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What makes Braxton so special isn't just his natural ability, which is phenomenal, but his mental strength. I mean, the focus, the dedication, the determination that kid has is uncommon in kids twice his age.

SIMON: But in many ways Braxton is just like every other kid his age. After all, he chose McDonald's as the place to celebrate. As for future goals?

BILBREY: Well, I want to be in the Olympics.

SIMON: Well, he's pretty much on his way. Before them, though, he's got a few other folks who want to talk to him, including Letterman and Leno.


SIMON: Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


COOPER: Unbelievable. In a moment, our shot of the day. But first, Erica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS" joins us with some of the business stories we're following. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, U.S. stocks took a hit today as investors faced the prospect of slowing economic growth and higher inflation. The Dow fell nearly 19 points. The S&P 500 declined almost 5, and the NASDAQ lost 21. Helping to fuel that sell-off, warnings by some companies of a slowdown in the second quarter.

And Lowe's, the nation's number two home improvement chain, was one of those companies. It posted a 44 percent rise in first quarter earnings, beating analysts' predictions, but at the same time, Lowe's reduced its sales forecast, citing concerns about a cooling housing market. And that caused shares to fall more than 4 percent on the news.

And GAP making a play for the lucrative online shoe business. Later this year, you'll be able to buy casual and designer footwear from GAP with just a click of the old mouse. GAP will also offer its own designs. Online sales of footwear are rising by almost 15 percent annually. The market is expected to top $5 billion by 2010. That's a look at your business headlines for now. But Anderson, I understand, heading back over to Oprah's set tomorrow?

COOPER: Yes. I'm on "Oprah" tomorrow talking about my book.

HILL: That's good. I'm looking forward to it.

COOPER: Yeah, me, too.

HILL: So we'll be sure to tune in.

COOPER: That's just cool, as always.

Time for "the shot of the day." Almost too painful to look at, but at the same time simply amazing. It's another look at what it took to put the racehorse Barbaro's severely broken leg back together. Take a look at that x-ray, the metal rod, 23 screws, nearly five hours of surgery. Barbaro's racing career ended abruptly of course this weekend during the Preakness. He broke his leg in three places. It was so severe a break, most horses would have been euthanized. The 3- year-old Barbaro said to be resting comfortably now. His doctors say it is too soon to tell, Erica, if he'll survive. Such a sad story.

HILL: That's just amazing. Actually I never really understood why they most of the time had to euthanize a horse. I hadn't thought about it. But I guess it's because, I learned from a vet today, that unlike a dog or a cat, they really need to, because they're such big animals, they need to have that weight evenly distributed on the forelegs because it would just be too much on three.

COOPER: Yeah, and I guess there's some infection and actually disease that can result from having weight unevenly distributed. Learn something new every day. Erica thanks. Coming up, the next hurricane season just 10 days away. And if oil rigs are hit again, you could be paying even more at the pump. We're going to tell you how even oil companies are getting ready along the gulf.

Plus, relief after hurricane Katrina. Many -- well, they don't have any relief at all. Coming up, how some of those FEMA trailers are actually making people sick.

And it is a religious group featured in "The Da Vinci Code" that says the book and the movie have it all wrong. We'll take you inside Opus Dei when "360" continues.


COOPER: Danger on the horizon, the National Hurricane Center giving its predictions for this hurricane season. We have the full report.

ANNOUNCER: Get ready. Just 10 days until hurricane season. Tonight, a new forecast. How much destruction will we see this year?

Another coal mine tragedy and growing pressure to make changes. What's taking so long for congress to approve new mining regulations? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And "The Da Vinci code" rules at the weekend box office. Tonight, the real-life drama linked to part of the controversial plot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still have nightmares every night that I'm in Opus Dei and I can't get out.


ANNOUNCER: We take you inside Opus Dei. See what's fact and fiction. Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us again. We begin tonight with a sobering fact, one the gulf coast doesn't want to hear understandably. The hurricane season begins next Thursday, 10 days away. We've already heard that this season could be a rough one. Today the National Hurricane Center laid out its predictions. CNN's Rob Marciano takes a look.


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