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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Comair Commuter Flight Crashes In Kentucky; Hurricane Ernesto; Fox Journalists Freed

Aired August 27, 2006 - 08:15   ET

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


HARRIS: If you are just joining us, just waking up this morning, breaking news within the past 30 minutes of an aviation accident in Lexington, Kentucky. Police confirm a Comair commuter flight crashed on takeoff at the Bluegrass Airport, at least 50 people were aboard. We're told the plane was en route to Atlanta. Stay with CNN throughout the morning as we continue to gather more information on this breaking news. We're going to take a quick break. Ok.
And now in the news, a rush of activity following the release of two journalists held in Gaza. Captors freed the "FOX" journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig just hours ago. The two met briefly with the new Palestinian prime minister, you see that meeting here, then headed for Israel.

It's official, Ernesto is now a full-blown category 1 hurricane. It slowed down in the Caribbean off the southwest tip of Haiti. It is projected to reach category 3 in the coming days. Computer models predict a track that would eventually make landfall on Florida's gulf coast. Stay with CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

NGUYEN: And we run down the top stories every 15 minutes, right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING with in-depth coverage all morning long. So your next check of the headlines coming up at 8:30 eastern. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING, we'll be back with much more news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Let's get you some more information on that plane crash in Lexington, Kentucky this morning. Here's what we know so far that this was a medium-sized commuter jet, a Comair commuter flight 191 that crashed upon takeoff this morning. It was headed from Lexington to Atlanta. We understand that there were about 50 to 51 people onboard and perhaps some fatalities involved. This plane landed in a wooded area about a mile from the airport. I believe we have CNN's Miles O'Brien on the phone with us. Miles, are you there?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes I am Betty.

NGUYEN: Miles what do you know about that -- this particular plane involved, this commuter jet?

O'BRIEN: Well it's a bombardier, if you've flown any commuter flights you've probably had an opportunity to fly on this. The (INAUDIBLE) CRJ series, there's a 100, 200 and it goes on up to 900. It is a commuter jet that is capable of carrying up to 80 people in its longest stretch version. It's a highly sophisticated, relatively new jet, with the glass panel display for the pilot makes it, you know, very foolproof type of airplane to fly and has a very good safety record, generally. I should tell you I had an opportunity to check the weather. There was a question about the weather at Lexington Airport this morning. And all the recent weather reporting from there has indicated very benign weather situation. The most recent one I found indicates about six miles of visibility, a cloud deck, a solid cloud deck at 5500 feet, light winds about 7 miles an hour would have been right down that runway 22, which heads off into the southwest. So at this point probably would be discounted as a factor in all this. Might have been a little bit of haze but plenty of visibility at six miles. And some of the factors that the NTSB go team will be looking at, was there a loss of an engine at a very critical time during takeoff. How was that aircraft loaded up? Were there too many people onboard, too much baggage? Were the controllable surfaces on the wings, the flaps and slats set properly before they took off? These are some of the factors that they'll be looking at.

NGUYEN: What we know so far Miles is that there are multiple fatalities. We don't even know if there are any survivors at this point. It landed in a wooded area about a mile from the airport. Does that give the pilot any time to radio for help? Does that give us any clues as to what might have happened on this plane?

O'BRIEN: No. I'm sure this happened very quickly. I'd be very surprised if the flight crew was able to get on the radio. They would have had -- obviously, they had something very significant to deal with right in the midst of their takeoff roll and they would have been struggling, no doubt, to try to correct whatever that problem was. There are specific times along the way and during a takeoff and a jet like this has a lot of extra power, but under certain circumstances if it's loaded a certain way, if you lose an engine at just the wrong time and don't do just the right things at the precise right time, you may get a term the pilots use is "behind the power curve." In other words, you're just too low and too slow in order to recover. So these things happen very quickly. They train for these things time and again in simulators because it's obviously safer to do it that way and these responses for the flight crew should be automatic. When thing goes wrong on a runway roll, but those are some of the things that the NTSB will be looking at.

NGUYEN: Definitely, Miles, you are joining us from New Orleans. I want to ask you to stand by if you would please, we're going to get a weather check.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Miles O'Brien is with us and Miles, this aircraft that we're talking about that has gone down here, is this a sturdy, reliable, kind of a workhouse of an aircraft?

O'BRIEN: Yes, the pilots love to fly it. It's a highly- sophisticated airplane as I say it has that full glass cockpit in place of the old steam gauges as we call them, the dials with the analog pointers and so forth. It's a highly-computerized, highly- automated aircraft that provides a series of sort of fail safe mechanisms for the pilot to ensure that he's doing everything he should. Everyone I've talked to who has flown this airplane loves flying it.

HARRIS: We should remind everybody that you are a pilot and I'm wondering, you fly everywhere. Have you ever flown into this airport?

O'BRIEN: I have flown into Lexington on occasion. I flew in there in the midst of some training at one point and was practicing some approaches on that field. Nothing too remarkable about it. That runway, that main runway, the wind favorite today runway 22 is just a little over 7,000 feet and shouldn't provide any -- that's plenty of cushion for an airplane like this. So I wouldn't look to it being a short runway or anything like that presuming they used that long runway, but there's no reason they wouldn't have.

HARRIS: Yeah, we just want to recap what we know so far on this. Authorities on the ground are telling us that there are multiple fatalities in this crash. This is a 50-seat Delta commuter jet. This aircraft is a Comair commuter plane, run of course by, owned by Delta. And no word yet of any survivors as of now and Miles has just been giving us a description of the aircraft and that it is an aircraft as Miles just mentioned, that folks -- that pilots love to fly.

NGUYEN: Well and he called it a little bit earlier, Miles is still with us, Miles you called it a foolproof aircraft and so let's just look at the information that we have. So far we understand that the weather may not have been a factor in looking at this plane and its track record when it comes to safety and reliability. Do you suspect, I mean I know we don't have much information, but do you suspect that it's either mechanical or engine failure?

O'BRIEN: Well it's hard to say what precisely happened. Usually what happens in these cases, it's a series of events, it seldom goes back to one thing and it's usually about a half-dozen things. And if you took any one of those half dozen things out of the picture you probably wouldn't have had the scenario that you're seeing right now. So, was it a combination of a failed engine and possibly an incorrect setting on the controllable surfaces of the wings, the flaps? Was it an improperly set controllable surfaces and a problem in the way the airplane was loaded? Usually it's going to be a series of things like that. Was there a tire that blew in conjunction with losing something? Was there, you know, some sort of debris on the runway? Any number of things like that can pile up very quickly and the problem is when you are at takeoff and, of course, any time you get close to the ground that's when you have to be paying a lot of attention if you're a pilot. At takeoff things happen very quickly and decisions have to be made split second on how to do the right thing in order to recover. And so, like I say, these flight crews train over and over again for these kinds of scenarios. But a lot of times even the best simulator people who come up various scenarios are unable to devise the kind of scenario which happens in the real world. So, like I say, it'll be something that will have to be unraveled by the NTSB and almost every time they're able to do it. But it's usually not just one single answer.

HARRIS: I can't remember the last time there's been a commuter crash.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a while.

HARRIS: It's been a while, hasn't it?

O'BRIEN: It has been a little while. There was one not too long ago in Charlotte. It involved a turboprop airplane, and that's sort of a similar scenario in the sense that it happened on takeoff. And what was determined later, there a problem with the way the plane was loaded. It was not loaded in -- it was overloaded toward the back of the airplane. It had just come out of maintenance, as well, and the way that the plane was trimmed was unusual for the pilot. So it was a combination of factors in that case which brought that plane down.

NGUYEN: And I want to talk about that in a minute. But just for those viewers just joining us, it's 8:30 Eastern. We do want to recap what we know so far about this plane crash. It happened this morning in Lexington, Kentucky, at the Blue Grass Airport. A commuter jet -- a Comair commuter flight actually run by Delta, Flight 191 -- has crashed about a mile from the airport in a wooded area. It was upon takeoff as this crash occurred.

There's a picture of what this plane would look like. There are about 50 passengers on board. There are multiple fatalities. We don't even know if there are any survivors at this point.

We have CNN's Miles O'Brien on the phone. He himself is a pilot.

And as you talk about the amount of weight on board, what we know so far is that there are about 50 people on board that plane. So does that mean that it's pretty heavily loaded?

O'BRIEN: We don't know precisely which version of the CRJ we're talking about here. There are some that have seating configurations which go up to 78 people. But let's assume for a minute the mid-range one, and that would be pretty close to the capacity, potentially. And that could be a factor, but, of course, in jet aircraft, generally, there's a lot of extra power that's available to the aircraft and that can -- you can load them up pretty heavily. It just depends on a lot of other factors: How much, was there a lot of cargo in the hold? That kind of thing, which could have had some impact on the performance of the airplane, of course.

HARRIS: OK, Miles, stand by, if you would, for just a second. We are going to go, once again, to Bonnie Schneider, who is at the CNN Weather Center for us.

And, Bonnie, I understand you have some new information of a possible - is it a tornado that just touched down in southern New Jersey?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, a tornado warning - it hasn't been sighted yet. But it is Doppler radar indicated. And the reason why we want to bring it to you, it's a weekend. A lot of folks are on the Jersey Shore.

And you should know, there is severe weather in Cape May, in Cape May County. Actually, it's right here near Sea Isle City, 18 miles southeast of Atlantic City. Doppler radar has indicated a very strong, severe thunderstorm, and this is the area where the tornado is in - tornado warning is in effect, and that goes until 9:15 a.m. Eastern Time.

Most of the thunderstorm activity is pushing offshore in New Jersey, but there are some strong cells that are moving in from the west that you'll want to keep a watch on that goes from Delaware all here along the Jersey Shore towards Atlantic City. So a very stormy warning for you there in New Jersey.

We are also, of course, tracking our other huge story, that is Hurricane Ernesto, now a hurricane, officially, the first one of this 2006 season. This hurricane has maximum winds at 75 miles per hour, and right now, there is a hurricane warning in effect for Haiti, and that's because the storm is already starting to bring very strong wind and just tremendous amount of rain that will cause mudslides for sure through these islands here into the Dominican Republic and in Haiti.

The storm, looking at it on the satellite perspective, you can see that it is really filled out, meaning, it's gotten expansive on all four sides, unlike yesterday when the wind shear was breaking it down to some degree. So that wind shear relaxed; the storm strengthened and intensified by becoming a hurricane early this morning.

The other big change is the track and the intensity. Watch what happens as we take you through. The storm is likely to become a Category 2 as early as tomorrow, and then interacting with Cuba, weakening a bit to a Category 1. But this is where things can change dramatically: The storm can come over warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center. And they have stretched and expanded their cone of uncertainty, covering all of Florida, all of the way westward towards parts of Alabama. So this is a wide area, but the shift is now further to the east rather than yesterday to the west. So a big change in the early hours of this morning.

This is, note, days away, by 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, and as we go day by day, we'll be tracking this for you and we are going to have a another advisory with a new updated track at 11:00. You'll want to be watching then because these changes have just been happening moment by moment - Betty, Tony.

HARRIS: And, Bonnie, you may not have your maps there readily accessible to you, but give us a sense as we follow the story of a plane crash in Lexington, Kentucky -- give us a sense of whether or not weather was a factor or could have been a factor.

SCHNEIDER: When we were looking at some of the weather towards Lexington, Kentucky, you can see that right here along this frontal boundary we've had some thunderstorms, and, really, the main thing to notice, the weather hasn't been perfect, but earlier this morning, at 5:00 and at 6:00 this morning, the airport at Blue Grass, Kentucky, airport in Lexington was reporting partly cloudy conditions.

Winds out of the southwest now at 7:00. Some thunderstorms in the area at present, but most of those past south of the airport, and when we checked for real-time lightning in the past hour, we only found one strike of lightning. So it has not been a tremendous morning for severe weather there, but not picture perfect either.

HARRIS: OK, Bonnie, thank you.

NGUYEN: We are following several breaking news stories this morning. We are going to take a quick break, and right after that, we'll update you on all of the news that is happening, including these live pictures that you're seeing right now of those two Fox News journalists who have been freed this morning. They are getting in a car. We understand they were leaving the junction in Gaza and heading to Israel. But the good news this morning is that they are live and well, and they have been released.

We'll have much more right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And if you're just joining us, breaking news within the last hour here of an aviation accident that's in Lexington, Kentucky. Police are confirming that a Comair commuter flight has crashed on takeoff at the Blue Grass Airport -- at least 50 people on board that plane. We are told that plane was en route from Lexington to Atlanta. Officials on the ground telling us that there are multiple -- in quotes now - "multiple fatalities" among the 50 on board that flight.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is with us.

And, Miles, as you begin to sort of put the pieces together, where do you go for information, and what's the best information that you have telling you about what may have happened? We are desperately trying to reach officials on the ground, but obviously they have their hands full right now.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

HARRIS: And the weather conditions at the time?

O'BRIEN: Yes, well, there are any number of sites. It all comes from the federal government. The National Weather Service and the Federal Aviation Administration provide weather at reporting stations, usually associated with airports all across the country. And so, one of the first things I do when something like this happens is I check the meteorological conditions at the airport over the previous few hours just to get a sense. That is usually the first place you go, and then once you get a sense of what the airplane is, you go from there.

Now, as far as the weather goes, as Bonnie pointed out, it was not the ideal perfect blue sky day, but it was perfectly benign weather conditions for an airplane like this: about six miles of visibility; a little bit hazy; there were some thunderstorms in the area, but apparently not right over the field; and then a 5,500 foot cloud deck above them. So not a situation where an aircraft was flying into difficult weather that would be questionable. So that I would discount at least at the outset. The temperature was such that it would be unlikely that ice would have formed on the planes wing, that kind of thing seemed unlikely at this point.

So then you start looking at the airplane and the track record. That's another thing you go to. And one of the places I go to is the National Transportation Safety Board site. You can do a search there on the aircraft, which I've just done, in the history of this aircraft's usage -- and it is a heavily used airplane -- there's been only a total of five incidents involving this aircraft, two of them minor ground incidents where no one was hurt. One occurred in 2003 in France. The pilot on approach got off of the instrument landing system and crashed on the ground.

In November 2004, in Jefferson City, Missouri, a Flight crew of two were ferrying a Northwest CRJ-200 (ph), from one place to another, no passengers. Attempted to take it to an altitude that was above its ceiling. The engines flamed out, and that plane eventually crashed.

And then finally, in November of 2004 in China -- and I don't have a lot of information about this because, clearly, the NTSB would not take the lead on the Chinese crash -- but a Bombardier CRJ-200 crashed on takeoff with 55 pallets. But I don't have much more information on that. That's a pretty good track record for an airplane that is used as frequently as this one.

So then you have to start thinking about some of the factors that might be involved. Did an engine fail? Was this airplane loaded in such a way that when that engine failed the pilots did not have enough margin for error? Was it too much cargo or baggage in the hold, so when an engine failed it was difficult for them to recover? Was there some other factor involved? Was there a setting that was incorrect, perhaps on the controllable surfaces of the wing, that changed the aerodynamics of the wing. And that's very crucial during takeoff, of course. All these things will be factored in and those kind of things, as well - about the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, which this airplane, of course, is equipped with - will give investigators some insight as to what happened there.

HARRIS: CNN's Miles O'Brien with us this morning. And, Miles, we know you have to run, but thank you, thank you so much for your help this morning -- Miles O'Brien, a part of that wonderful team on "AMERICAN MORNING," along with Soledad O'Brien, Chad Myers, Andy Serwer with business. Miles, appreciate it. Thank you.

NGUYEN: We are following another developing story this morning and that being those two Fox News journalists who have been released this morning. Let's go straight to CNN's Chris Lawrence. He is at the Gaza border on the Israeli side with the latest on the release of the two journalists.

I understand that the last we showed, Chris, they were getting in a car headed somewhere. That's all we know at this point.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do have a little bit more now, Betty. We just learned that they are making their way now to Jerusalem. So they passed through the gate behind me, just about literally five minutes ago. They have been doing press conferences. They have been meeting with some of the diplomats, really being followed by cameras every step of the way and since their release earlier today. And now we saw them get into their cars here.

We saw Olaf Wiig looking very relaxed, wearing sandals and a T-shirt and just had a huge smile on his face. His wife, Anita McNaught, who was hugging some of the Fox personnel, the Fox News personnel who had been working so hard over the last two weeks to have their colleague freed safely.

Again, you know, Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni, his cameraman Olaf Wiig, really just an incredible day when you consider that we didn't hear anything for so long. For nine days, there was absolutely no word about who took them or why. And then last Wednesday, the videotape was released with them sitting on the floor. You hear Steve Centanni talking about that they are being given food, clean clothes, and a shower; and, of course, then today all of the developments with the subsequent videotape and finally their release and passage back from Gaza, back into Israel; and again, both journalists safely now making their way to Jerusalem.

NGUYEN: Well, Chris, I want you to take some time now and walk us through, because there have been many developments this morning. You talk about that second tape that they had to make, and then, following that was the release. So walk us through exactly what happened as of the early hours this morning.

LAWRENCE: Well, as I understand it, the - they released a videotape which, I have to be honest, I have not seen this videotape. But they released a videotape that basically showed the two men wearing what appeared to be Islamic robes, talking about the fact that they had converted to Islam. Steve Centanni saying that he had taken another name, the name "Caleb (ph)" and that he recognized Allah.

But, again, he subsequently clarified his remarks by saying that he had the utmost respect for the faith of Islam, but that some of those comments were coerced under the threat of force...

(CROSSTALK)

NGUYEN: Yes, you can see in the video, Chris, that those comments were coerced, because you see them reading a note in that video. And then Centanni later, after his release, went on to say that the reason that he said he embraced Islam is because the militants had a gun pointed at his head.

LAWRENCE: Right, which does contradict somewhat the earlier video that was released last Wednesday in which you do not see anyone in that video except for Olaf Wiig and Steve Centanni, and they are saying that they are being treated well and they're allowed to address their families. Olaf Wiig in that video was saying, you know, Please don't worry about me; I'll do all of the worrying.

So a definite change from the first video to the second video, you know, just in the tone and the content, and perhaps the threat that was being applied to these two journalists. NGUYEN: Yes, and then, Chris, shortly after that they were taken to a hotel there in Gaza that was frequented by journalists and released, and we saw the video that came out of that. And as we know of now, they are headed to Jerusalem.

Chris Lawrence joining us from the Gaza border on the Israeli side. As we talk about the release of these two journalists, Chris, we want to thank you for that. There's much more on this story to bring you.

You'll want to stay with CNN for that.

HARRIS: All right, we'll take a quick break and come back with more of CNN SUNDAY MORNING right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: We have a huge weather story to tell you today. There is, first of all, Hurricane Ernesto.

NGUYEN: Ernesto, yes.

HARRIS: Weather conditions in Kentucky, the site of this commuter plane crash that we need to talk about, and also as we go to Bonnie Schneider this morning...

NGUYEN: In the midst of all of that.

HARRIS: Yes, we have a tornado warning for southern New Jersey.

Bonnie, let's start with that warning.

SCHNEIDER: All right, there is a lot going on -- you're right, Tony and Betty.

To start out with the tornado warning, that's in effect for about another 25 minutes. This is in effect until 9:15 a.m. It is for east central Cape May County. Important to note, this is a busy time of year on the Jersey Shore; lots of folks getting in their last summer weekend there. And you will find that we are getting some rough weather, unfortunately. A tornado is possible, indicated by Doppler radar, near Sea Isle City, and also, that's about 18 miles southwest of Atlantic City, which many of you are familiar with. And there it is on the map.

So this is the area highlighted in red where the tornado warning is still in effect. The thunderstorms themselves, they are pushing a little bit more offshore. We've seen them kind of push off into the Atlantic. The problem is, there's more to come. You can see that near Vineland (ph) and also Wilmington and Delaware. This is going to be a rough day ahead for much of Philadelphia southward, including the Jersey Shore and all along the shoreline.

So anywhere you're going to enjoy the beach today, unfortunately, it will be very stormy. So watch, again, for the possibility of a tornado in the southern area of the Cape May County, including Sea Isle City. That's an area that is getting hard hit with storms right now.

So we're watching this very closely. I think it is going to be a rough day for folks that are looking to go to the beach on the Jersey Shore, unfortunately - Betty, Tony.

NGUYEN: Well, it's also a rough day for folks in Lexington, Kentucky. An airline, a medium-sized passenger plane run by Delta - it is a Comair commuter flight -- has crashed there. Some 50 people on board. Bonnie, as you know, we've been reporting this. Many fatalities; we don't even know if there were any survivors.

So the question to you -- a lot of people are questioning this, as well -- was weather involved? What was the weather like there this morning?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think, a lot of folks in Kentucky are wondering about the weather, because it's been changeable over the past six hours. We had reports at 5:00 this morning in the Lexington area of partly cloudy skies. By 7:00 and 8:00, that changed over to more of a haze or overcast conditions.

And you are looking at real-time radar right now. There were thunderstorms that rolled through the Lexington area, mainly south of the airport. The airport is located right here on the western part of the city. So much of the thunderstorm activity pushed to the south. And we did a check to see if there was lightning in the area. We didn't detect any real-time lightening strikes. But these are some downpours that are working their way through the area - just something to keep a watch on.

Current conditions at the airport: Winds are out of the southwest at seven miles per hour. They're reporting currently a visibility of six miles, not picture perfect, but not really too bad as far as the weather goes for flying.

HARRIS: OK, and if you are just joining us 8:53, 8:54 Eastern Time this morning -- if you're just waking up with us -- Bonnie, overnight there were developments with Tropical Storm Ernesto. I guess we can't call him, it, a tropical storm any longer.

NGUYEN: Not anymore.

SCHNEIDER: We could have at 4:58, and then as soon as we got to the 5:00 advisory, everything changed. This storm was upgraded officially to hurricane status, the first hurricane of the 2006 season. So a powerful one so far: Right now, a Category 1; maximum winds at 75 miles per hour.

And the reason we saw the rapid intensification of Ernesto, it has to do with the wind shear. Yesterday, as the satellite loop plays, you'll see that, first off, the storm looks very flat and straight on the western half. And then -- there it is -- see that line there? Very straight the wind shear coming from the southwest tiered it down a bit, kept it below hurricane status. Then overnight, that wind shear relaxed. So the storm was allowed to intensify and blossom all around all four quadrants, and we saw the intensification grow. So right now, we're watching very closely at the clock at this moment, because at 11:00, we'll have another update and a new track.

Speaking of changes -- and big changes overnight -- the track of this hurricane now has changed dramatically. We originally looking at the track yesterday and talking about the Central Gulf Coast, even as far to the west as Texas. Well, that's all changed in our forecast ahead for the next few days.

Check out the way things are shaping up right now. Cuba, looks like at this point, the storm is headed in that direction. And according to the National Hurricane Center, it may become a Category 2 before it makes landfall across the island of Cuba. Then pushing through Cuba, the storm loses intensity because it does interact with the land. And that does weaken a hurricane. So it comes back over the open water of the warm Gulf of Mexico, that warm deep water that can ignite a hurricane.

So now what we're looking at is a curvature towards Florida and a Category 3 storm. A major hurricane possible by late Thursday. Betty and Tony, it's important to note, this track has been changing, and it's likely to change once more before we get to this point.

HARRIS: Bonnie, Bonnie, Bonnie -- now the current path takes this storm, this hurricane, over the island of Cuba. Won't it weaken?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it will, and that's why we're expecting it to weaken from a Category 1 to a Category 2. But what happens with these storms is they come over the Gulf of Mexico, and if they do interact with the gulf currents...

NGUYEN: Wait a second, Bonnie-- weaken from a Category 1 to a Category 2?

HARRIS: No, no. Yes, yes. It will weaken from its current state, right?

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

HARRIS: OK.

NGUYEN: Then it will pick up speed in the gulf? Is that what you're saying?

SCHNEIDER: Actually, no. I don't think it will pick up speed, but I do think it will pick up in intensity, because it will tap into that worm water. Remember, the warm water temperature of 80 degrees? Once you get into the Gulf of Mexico, it goes very deep, as well. So there's a lot of resource and energy for a hurricane to intensify, even after it weakens from interacting with Cuba.

NGUYEN: Gotcha. And then, again, we're looking at another Cat. 3. So we definitely want to keep our eye on this as it heads toward Florida.

Bonnie Schneider, thank you for the update. As you know, we will be speaking with Bonnie many more times this morning as we keep a watch on Ernesto. We're also keeping a watch on that plane crash out of Lexington, Kentucky. And we have much more information on that right after this break.

You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: If you are just waking up this morning, take a look at this map -- this is of Lexington, Kentucky. There are three major news stories that we are following this hour: In Kentucky, a Comair commuter plane bound for Atlanta crashed during takeoff.

NGUYEN: In Gaza, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, the Fox News reporter and photographer held hostage for 13 days, are now free men. Take a look at this video. They were released by their captors less than five hours ago. We are live at the Gaza border for that story.

And Tropical Storm Ernesto is now Hurricane Ernesto, packing winds of 75 miles per hour, and it is expected to intensify.

Bonnie Schneider is tracking the storm in our hurricane headquarters and we'll have a complete and detailed update in just a couple of moments.

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