Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

'Treacherous' Recovery Effort; Good Samaritan Haunted by Images; Fears About Bridges

Aired August 3, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the death toll of lives lost rising in Minneapolis, and the people trying to find bodies risking their own lives. It's treacherous, as crews dive through broken glass, twisted metal, jagged concrete, and gas.
Dozens are involved in the -- in the collapse who thought they were fine, now have unexpected injuries. Doctors say the shock of it all could have blinded them to their pain.

We're watching this part of the story.

And some Democrats now call the bridge disaster a wakeup call. And they're calling for more money to keep all of us safe. But some say it's not about more money but it's how the money is spent.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, a nightmare is getting worse. The death toll rises after the Minneapolis bridge collapse. Here are the latest developments.

Five people are now confirmed dead. Crews recovered the fifth person yesterday from a tractor-trailer that had been engulfed in flames. There are conflicting estimates of the number of people still missing. Officials believe at least eight could be missing, but there could be as many as 30 still who are missing.

The first lady Laura Bush visited the area today. She spoke with some of the victims' family members.

We have multiple resources mobilized across Minneapolis and beyond.

Let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd. He's got the latest on the investigation -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a city official put it best. He said, "Our city has been cut in half."

Now, we have been down today right at the point where it's been cut in half. The recovery work is slow and very treacherous.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): From rescue, to recovery... SHERIFF RICHARD STANEK, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA: Approximately 60 vehicles have been identified within their collapsed sites that are visible to folks.

TODD: ... divers carry out the grim task of searching for bodies and sunken cars in the Mississippi River. A mission described by the sheriff in charge of operations as treacherous.

STANEK: Conditions on the river are even more treacherous than yesterday. You've got the water coming out of the lower lock. You've got the current. You've got the debris. The divers will be taking extreme caution.

TODD: The injured continue to pour into area hospitals. One hundred people treated in the past two days. Doctors say many didn't realize they were injured until the adrenaline rush of catastrophe wore off.

DR. JOHN HICK, HENNEPIN COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER: The forces that affected the folks on the bridge, you know, forward, backward, up and down, you're going to have a lot of muscular injuries, in addition to bone injuries to the spine and neck. And so, a lot of folks think, you know, I'm OK, I'm doing all right. Their adrenaline surges, and they go to bed and they get up in the next morning and they're just stiff as a board.

TODD: But they survived. Some knew they would not. One man who was crushed in his car sent a final message to family through rescue workers.

CHIEF TIM DOLAN, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: He was obviously very, very seriously injured. Very -- died, passed away at the scene there. There was no -- he's in a very, very dangerous position to try to get into that vehicle and remove him.

They decided to leave him there, as well as several others we knew where they were. And we made sure that they were watched through the night. We had people that were assigned to watch them specifically at the scene to make sure nothing was tampered with.

HICK: There's nothing harder than in emergency medicine than actually talking to somebody and then either having them die or finding out later that they died. It's just the most powerless feeling in the world.

You know, I'm glad that in that situation there was able to be a little bit of closure, you know, provided, you know, by the person being able to speak and being able to communicate with the paramedics and thoughts that he wanted to pass along.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But amidst all this heartbreak and confusion, some of that confusion actually brings some good news. One person who was listed as missing in the water in one of these vehicles that submerged, the Hennepin County sheriff told us a short time ago that person was actually located at their workplace, Wolf, safe and sound.

BLITZER: All right. That's -- at least that's good news there.

Thanks very much, Brian. Stand by. We're going to get back to you.

There are hundreds of bridges across the country that have a similar design as the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed. That design is called a steel deck truss construction.

A truss is a rigid skeletal structure that helps hold the bridge up. You'll see it here in the yellow. And it's often based, by the way, on a triangle-shaped design. A truss bridge can handle heavy weights and span long distances.

According to the Department of Transportation here in Washington, there were 760 deck truss bridges in the United States as of last December. Two hundred and sixty-four of them -- 264 are considered structurally deficient.

Ohio has the most deck truss bridges of any state, 191. And of those, 54 are considered structurally deficient.

We're hearing stories of ordinary people performing extraordinary acts of heroism, risking their own lives to help victims in need.

Let's go back to Minneapolis. Mary Snow is watching this part of the story.

You caught up with one of those heroes, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did, Wolf. His name is Greg Bernstein. And, you know, to hear him tell the story, his actions after the bridge collapsed, are nothing but ordinary. But listen carefully to the details. You'll probably disagree.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG BERNSTEIN, RESCUED VICTIMS: Our car (ph) was right in front of Jason (ph).

SNOW (voice over): For Greg Bernstein, it took just a few seconds when the bridge collapsed to snap back to the first-day training he received 20 years ago. He followed cries for help, including one from a man named Hector lying on his back.

BERNSTEIN: There was a truck that was upended on a corner, just sort of hanging -- what looked like in the air. And so I got kind of nervous about that. Although I knew he had a bad back, and you're not supposed to move people with a bad back, but I guess I kind of made the decision, we just needed to move him.

SNOW: Bernstein says he summoned three dazed men standing nearby to help Hector.

BERNSTEIN: At first, I tied up his back with my shirt. And then we grabbed him under his arms and pulled him off to the side. So -- but then...

SNOW (on camera): And what did he say to you? Was he conscious?

BERNSTEIN: Yes -- that he thought he was going to die.

SNOW: He told you that he thought he was going to die?

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

SNOW: What did you tell him?

BERNSTEIN: That he's not.

SNOW (voice over): There were more cries for help.

BERNSTEIN: I turned from there and I could see the guy, Jason (ph), who was crushed. A truck landed on top of his car. He was in -- he was in pretty bad shape. He was yelling about his back, which was in bad shape. And bleeding all around his head. And he was yelling -- he was saying he couldn't breathe.

SNOW: Bernstein stayed with Jason (ph) until help arrived. He says he is still haunted by the image that he saw while there -- a person's arm inside a crushed car, one he couldn't get to.

BERNSTEIN: Well, you can't stop thinking about it, because if I -- maybe I could have done something else. But I didn't. I couldn't get up there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: An image that Greg Bernstein says keeps coming back into his mind. And it appears, Wolf, that all the people that he assisted did survive.

BLITZER: He's a hero by anyone's definition on that score.

Thanks, Mary, very much.

And the man, Greg Bernstein, you just heard about in Mary's piece, he's going to be here live in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll speak with him about his harrowing ordeal.

And we're also standing by for a news conference from the National Transportation Safety Board this hour. We'll bring it to you live as it happens, the latest on the investigation.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York.

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, we can all sleep easy tonight. Our government is on the case.

Think about this. We have federally-mandated bridge inspections. These inspections have shown about one-fourth of this country's bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

There are thousands and thousands of bridges. The same people who determine this also hasten to assure us that these bridges are in very little danger of collapsing.

Say what?

It makes even less sense when you consider these are the same experts who thought the interstate bridge in Minneapolis was fine before it fell into the Mississippi River during rush hour on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, government officials, in an exercise known as "cover your bridge," are now scurrying about the country ordering safety reviews for thousands of bridges all over the United States, especially those that are similar to the steel and concrete one that collapsed in Minneapolis. There are about 700 of those nationwide.

New Jersey's governor has gone so far as to promise evaluations of all 6,400 bridges in the Garden State.

So here's the question: How confident are you if officials say that a bridge is in very little danger of collapsing?

E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

You know, Wolf, it would be interesting to know the last bridge that was ordered closed after it had been inspected and found to be either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. I don't know the answer to that. I'm just thinking out loud.

BLITZER: I think it's a good question. I don't know the answer either, but I suspect some of those structurally deficient bridges are about to be shut down, as they probably should have been a while ago.

All right, Jack. We'll try to get the answer for you and for our viewers.

So, how safe are the bridges that you cross? CNN and its team of local reporters from affiliate stations from across the country, they're about to take you to bridges that may cause you concern.

And it's all of our money, but is it being spent in the best ways to help keep us safe on the nation's bridges, highways, and other infrastructure?

We're trying to keep Congress honest.

And many people touched by tragedy are sending us their personal stories. We're going to share their words and their images with you this hour and next.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Actually, we want to go to a briefing that's just beginning right now out in Minneapolis. And let's go out there. The local law enforcement authorities are speaking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I said earlier that investigation, as we go on, is solidifying a list of people that we know are missing. So -- and people that may be in the river. So as that -- as that time goes on, that list becomes much, much more solid. And it's -- and we have several people on that list.

So, other than that, we -- we are continuing with the perimeter security. We have continued assistance from other agencies, state, local and otherwise.

You've gotten good briefings on the water rescue efforts. And we also can announce that everybody that's gone to the hospital from this event initially has been identified. From what I understand, it's close to 70 people that went to the hospital.

And we continue to work with the families at the family center. And we're in this for the long term.

So, when you think about the water rescue police, you know, we're -- we're hoping that we can rescue or recover -- recover is the right term -- the people that we believe are there. But, you know, it's a very, very dangerous scene. We've got a lot -- we've got a lot of debris there, things are very messy, and it's going to be a very, very tough and hard process.

So, having said that, I'm going to have other speakers come up, and then we'll take questions when we're done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I'm John Friedel (ph), assistant chief, Minneapolis Fire.

From the fire perspective, we are continuing now -- we've kind of completed the above-ground search and rescue and recovery efforts, and now we're assisting in supporting the role. And the Hennepin County sheriffs and the dive folks are now doing the under water recovery and search. And their primary search is of the above-stream vehicles.

That is still ongoing at this time. We've got companies down there in support of that effort.

In terms of our role initially, we passed command to the law enforcement, to the police now. Tim and his group now have -- are the incident commanders of this situation.

We are kind of throttled down. We got into sort of a support role, and we'll work to support whatever effort they may have, such as -- and we're doing it today with the support of the water rescue or underwater recovery effort, in that we take sort of a support role. And we certainly can go back into rescue mode if need be.

We still have staff on scene to make any rescues if there were such a thing, or if we had somebody, one of the responders, or people working on the scene were injured or whatever, we'd also assist in that effort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon. Michael Campian (ph), commissioner of public safety.

I haven't been before you yet, but certainly I carry the message to all Minnesotans. We have -- our sympathy and prayers certainly to the families that have been impacted by this.

The state is performing the role that it's supposed to play, and that is assisting the local units of government, local responders here in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. Our emergency operations center continues to remain open. We're going to assist in any way, in any fashion that we can the local authorities.

The Minnesota State Patrol is assisting Hennepin County, Minneapolis Police Department, and National Transportation Safety Board in documenting and reconstructing and mapping the -- the scene. They'll continue to do that I suspect for several, several, probably days.

The 800 megahertz radio, the interoperable system that Minnesotans and legislators and politicians have put a great deal of money in, this was really the first real hard test. I think without question, it turned out, you know, in an absolute outstanding fashion.

Our focus right now is in the recovery stage, and it should be. But as time goes on, I think that the back story for some weeks from now is really the magnificent performance of all first responders here on Wednesday. It's something that I think Minnesotans across the -- across the state and really people across the country can be very proud of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon. I'm Ted Canova (ph), communications official at the Twin Cities Red Cross.

We're grateful for the visit that First Lady Laura Bush made to the Twin Cities chapter. She met with first responders, our leader, Jan McDaniel, and also with about a dozen of the volunteers who have been working around the clock. Those volunteers are just a symbol of the hundreds that have come through across the Twin Cities and other areas.

Mrs. Bush thanked the Red Cross, says that our country depends on volunteers in a time like this. And she was very, very grateful. And a visit like that certainly buoys the emotions of folks who have been working around the clock. And we're grateful for that.

And we're also anticipating a visit by President Bush to the Twin Cities Red Cross tomorrow, tomorrow morning, that you'll hear more about.

A couple of things I wanted to bring you up to date with.

We've been sending out releases, but I thought at this time I could also share with you that the American Red Cross, led by the Twin Cities chapter, has been giving mental health counseling. The number is up to 1,200 individuals that we've given grief counseling to.

The cornerstone of the American Red Cross program is a family assistance center. As you know, it's set up at the Holiday Inn at the Metrodome.

At that center, families are waiting with Red Cross staff and volunteers, along with clergy. They're waiting for word, any kind of word. And going through some counseling there also.

The Red Cross is also there to support physical and emotional support for all of the first responders. To date, in just the first 72 hours, the Red Cross, through the generosity of the Twin Cities and...

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor this briefing at command central out in Minneapolis and get you all the latest information as soon as it comes in. But we're monitoring several other developments, including standing by for another news conference from the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, on the actual course of the investigation.

That's coming up.

We'll take you on the scene as divers continue to pursue the search for victims. It's very treacherous. They can't see what's happening under the water. Hugely dangerous debris all around.

Also, we'll introduce you to a woman who fell off the bridge as it was collapsing, yet managed to survive.

Also, John Edwards, this hour, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, on the nation's infrastructure, the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and his fight with Rupert Murdoch.

All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Understandably, many of you are very worried about the bridges you ride over after this disaster in Minneapolis. We have reporters checking in on some of the places where there are serious problems involving bridges.

Let's go first to Stephanie Gailhart of CNN affiliate WPEC in Tequesta, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE GAIL-HARD, REPORTER, WPEC: Hey, there, Wolf.

People in Tequesta, Florida, calling the mayor's office today. They are concerned about the safety of the Tequesta Bridge here.

In January, the center span cracked after salt water caused corrosion, weakening the bridge. The center span has since been replaced. Still, after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, people who drive over the bridge to get to and from work are raising safety concerns.

The mayor assures people here there's no need to panic. The rest of the spans will be replaced in two to five years. And he says the bridge is not in danger of collapsing right now.

Still, the Tequesta Bridge is one of 13 in Palm Beach County labeled as "structurally deficient," and that's not sitting well with people here in Tequesta, Florida.

Back to you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Stephanie, thank you for that.

Let's go to Rich Jaffe with CNN affiliate WKRC in Cincinnati.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICH JAFFE, REPORTER, WKRC: Wolf, this is Rich Jaffe in Cincinnati.

This is truly a city of bridges. You can see two of them right behind me. But we actually have seven bridges within the confines of downtown Cincinnati alone.

The oldest one is the Roebling Suspension Bridge. That one was built in 1860. But right now, the most controversial one is the I-75 Brent Spence Bridge, which bridges Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

That bridge was built the same time as the one in Minneapolis. And the speculation is that to replace it, which needs to be done, as of today, from one of our Congress people, I've heard that it would take $3 billion to replace that bridge alone. And that's a lot of money.

They've been talking about replacing it for the last few years, and certainly it's going to become a hot-button issue around here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Rich Jaffe reporting for us from our affiliate in Cincinnati, WKRC.

Let's go to Mike Walcher and our CNN Affiliate, WINK, in Fort Myers, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE WALCHER, REPORTER, WINK: Wolf, here in Florida, Governor Charlie Crist is ordering the Department of Transportation to look at every bridge in the state system. He wants inspectors to report back to his office on the bridge conditions by the middle of next week. And already, inspectors are keeping some of the heavier trucks off the bridges that have been rated structurally deficient. At the same time, county governments are spending money to rehabilitate the bridges in their systems. This bridge, for example, along the Gulf of Mexico, has sustained some damage from salt water and heavy trucks. And Lee County, Florida, is spending $1.7 million to fix it up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mike Walcher reporting for us from our affiliate WINK.

Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, collapsing bridges, exploding streets. Is America's infrastructure crumbling beneath us? And how safe are we really?

Soledad O'Brien investigates, "Road to Ruin: Are We Safe?" CNN tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to hold a news briefing later this hour. We're going to bring it to you live when it happens, the latest on the investigation.

Let's go to Carol Costello. There's another developing story just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

What are you picking up, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. This has to do with the Ford Motor Company.

It's now recalling 3.6 million passenger cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans to address concerns about a cruise control switch that has caused fires in several vehicles. Now, there are so many models to name. I'm just going to name a few of -- a few of them.

This recall involves the 1998-2002 Ford Ranger; '92-'97 Lincoln Town Car; '92- 97, Ford Crown Victoria; '92-'97 Mercury Grand Marquis; '93-'95 Taurus; and the 1999-2001 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer.

Other kinds of Fords are involved in this recall. If you want to know more, you're supposed to call Ford. But again, this recall is in regards to a cruise control switch which causes fires -- 3.6 million cars are being recalled by Ford.

More information, call them.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of cars. I never liked those cruise control devices to begin with.

Carol, thanks very much.

The bridge tragedy. Why did it happen, and how can another disaster like it be prevented? The finger-pointing starting here in Washington. But are Congress' priorities out of whack?

We're taking a closer look.

And the personal side of the disaster. Victims and witnesses telling their stories. We'll share some of them with you from our I- Reports.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, she was driving across that bridge in Minneapolis when it collapsed. Her car plunged into the river, filled with water and began to sink. But somehow, somehow, she got out alive. Now she's saying just how grateful she is for every second. She's about to tell us her incredible survival story.

Also, in our next hour, following the cries for help. A motorist who risked his own life to help strangers in need joins us live from Minneapolis.

And probing the twisted debris. We're going to have a report on the extremely dangerous work of the divers searching the murky waters of the Mississippi.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. .

Heavy cars, tractor-trailers and weighty pieces of construction equipment, all of them were on the bridge in Minneapolis the moment it collapsed. And that's raising concern there's too much weight on the nation's aging bridges.

Let's go to CNN's Kathleen Koch. She's joining us.

Kathleen, officials are frantically trying to determine what was the cause of that disaster in Minneapolis. And they're wondering if weight could have been a problem.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, multiple federal agencies are working not only to investigate that disaster, but also to prevent future collapses in cities around the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (voice over): National Transportation Safety Board investigators in Washington are already poring over the video of the bridge tragedy, trying to isolate where the collapse began. They're anxious to combine it with an exact computer model of the bridge created by a Federal Highway Administration employee as part of a doctoral project.

The NTSB says the two speed the investigation immeasurably.

MARK ROSENKER, CHAIRMAN, NTSB: We'll be able to use this to actually in the computer model take parts of the bridge apart. A girder here, a particular element, a plate, and then watch how the actual bridge collapses and see when it matches the pattern that we have on the video. Then we can begin to focus in on those parts.

KOCH: Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has ordered federal engineers and other help be offered to all 50 states, so they can quickly inspect bridges similar to the one that collapsed.

MARY PETERS, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: We want to make sure that those bridges are safe. And I have made federal officials available to assist with those inspections.

KOCH: The inspections are especially critical since a federal report last year found mistakes in weight-limit calculations and postings 25 percent of the time allow vehicles that are too heavy to cross structurally deficient bridges, jeopardizing their safety, that at a time when the aging bridges are already stressed by an explosion in traffic and truck size they were never designed to handle.

ANDY COATES, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS: So, as -- as traffic increases, weights of truck increases, the cumulative damage to some of these bridges, fatigue and otherwise, is kind of rising at a high level.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: This problem bridge in Washington, D.C., the Frederick Douglass Bridge, was in such bad shape, that it was closed last month for repairs. And experts say that needs to happen to a lot more bridges around the country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Kathleen Koch, for that.

Remember, we're standing by for a news conference from the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board. We will go there once it starts.

Meanwhile, are our tax dollars being spent in the best possible way to keep Americans safe on the nation's infrastructure?

Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching all of this unfold on Capitol Hill.

There's a lot of concern, Dana, as you well know, that the money that is being spent on the nation's infrastructure is being misdirected.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

You know, the investigation in Minneapolis is just beginning. But already here in Washington, many see a culprit, and that is a Congress that spends billions in pork-barrel projects and not on roads and bridges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Democrats immediately called the Minneapolis tragedy a wakeup call to spend more money on infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to settle for a bargain- basement transportation bill.

BASH: They blame the president for using veto threats to squeeze out spending.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's going to put us in a terrible place in trying to meet the maintenance needs we have out there.

BASH: But, to others, it's not about more money; it's about misplaced priorities in how it's spent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too much money is going to pork-barrel projects. The money is there.

BASH: Just look at the latest $50 billion House transportation spending bill. It includes more than $2 billion in earmarks, or pet projects, for lawmakers across the country. Many have nothing to do with roads and bridges.

In Minnesota, for example, Congressman Keith Ellison, whose district includes the collapsed bridge, helped secure $6 billion for light-rail, and joined Congressman Jim Oberstar, the Transportation Committee chairman, in getting $10 million more for a commuter rail. Oberstar also got $250,000 for a new bike path.

To be fair, most federal transportation money is sent to states, and they decide how it's spent. Earmarks come from a different pot of money. Still, critics say lawmakers neglect maintenance problems by steering money to headline-grabbing new projects.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bridge upkeep and road repair is not sexy. But it is exciting to talk about your new light-rail project, your new bus museum, your new bike trail. But, at the end of the day, those are not critical to our transportation needs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Congress and the White House are promising to spend whatever it takes to fix the Minneapolis bridge. But the bigger question is whether Congress is going to change the way they dole out money to fix these dilapidated bridges across the country before disaster strikes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

The head of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, the lead investigation into this disaster, is holding a news conference right now. Mark Rosenker, he's the head. He's speaking out.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MARK ROSENKER, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Today, we have begun to focus some energies on the southern part of our investigation of the bridge. It's the southern end that we're specifically looking at. The reason we're looking at that southern end is because we noticed that the section of this part of the bridge seemed to behave differently in the video, and then also in the final way that it sat after the collapse. It appears that it has shifted approximately 50 feet to the east. And when we compare that to what we have seen in the rest of the bridge, the rest of the bridge appears to have collapsed in place.

I don't want to leave the impression that we have the answer. What we have is a step forward, because, although we're going to focus our energies at this point on some of the debris and the structure that we will be examining on the southern end, actually, a failure at the northern end could potentially transfer loads to the southern end, where, in fact, the collapse could begin.

So, once again, I do not want you to jump to any conclusions that it's all at the southern end. This is a step forward, and we will be making a very thorough examination of that southern end.

I also want to let you know that we're going to take a look at any unique design factors that could have created that shift of 50 feet for whatever reason. We will be looking at the design plans, and then we will also be dealing with that advanced computer program that I talked about yesterday.

We're actually going to have it up and running. The Federal Highway Administration is doing this. It's actually their enhanced computer program. It's called a finite element analysis, finite element analysis. That is the computer program which, in fact, will enable us to actually take various parts of the bridge off, various elements, to see how the bridge would fail.

You would actually watch it collapse in a computer model. These failure scenarios in this computer program will begin on Monday. And the FHWA will be doing that as a party to this investigation and supplying us that information.

I also want to mention the fact that the FBI, who has been doing a lot of our mapping already with something called a total station -- it's a mapping device, a surveying type of tool -- will be bringing in a more advanced device. It's a 3-D type of a device.

And that will be in tonight, in full operation tomorrow. And that will scan 360 degrees, and that will give us significantly more detail of the damage area and the debris pile, so, that when, in fact, we go back to Washington and all of this have been removed, we have a detailed set of pictures, so that we can understand, in case we have to reference back, how this debris fell, where it was in relationship to where it was, where it was in original design.

I also want to mention the fact that we found four videos that were provided to us by the Army Corps of Engineers, four videos in reality, one of which we have seen already, the one that you have seen on TV. But there is a second one which we find may be of value. We won't know, because we haven't seen it yet. It has another view, potentially, of the area. We don't know. We haven't seen it. The FBI has it. They're providing it to us. And they're giving it. We're going to send it back to Washington for viewing and enhancement, if we possibly can do that.

The other two views that were provided are really in an opposite direction. Now, we will look at them. But we're not optimistic that they will show us anything, because they're on the opposite side, looking at another part of the river, having to nothing to do with what this bridge is. The second video may be of interest. I can't promise you anything, because we have not looked at it.

I want to reiterate the fact that our objective here is to do an extremely thorough, comprehensive, and as expeditious as we possibly can, without cutting corners. But our objective also is to try to open up that river as quickly as we can for the people of Minneapolis.

With that, I will take some questions.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What is your best explanation of why that southern part of the bridge shifted loose right now? What are you thinking?

ROSENKER: I wouldn't -- if you ask me to think, then I'm going to be doing analysis right here at the podium. And we don't do that at the NTSB. The analysis will come later, when we have gathered all of our facts, and be able to do it in a thorough, orderly way, not at a podium in a news conference 48 hours after we have been here.

You don't want me to do that, because it may be wrong. When we give you the answers, I want to make them right for you.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: Lisa (ph)?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Are you saying that shift occurred, though -- did it occur after the bridge had fallen? Or was that the initiating shift? Can you tell...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: We believe -- we believe that the -- as the bridge began to fall, as it began to collapse, it shifted. And that's what I'm saying.

I don't want anybody -- I am not saying -- let me say it clearly for you. I am not saying that the 50-foot shift created the fall. That is not what we believe. What we believe is, whatever created the failure, we ultimately saw, in its collapse, a 50-foot shift to the eastern part of the structure.

QUESTION: Chairman, am I to understand that you worked your way backwards? If you start the computer -- the computer model with that shift, that where the debris fell, and you work your way backwards with the computer model, is that the starting point...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: No. They will be doing a lot of things that, to be quite honest, we will give them the leeway to do. We're going to give them the best way that they want to do this. They're the experts with this model. And we're going to let them do it the right way.

And we will be extremely thorough, and they will be reporting to us on every single failure scenario. They are sitting in our meetings. They are a party to our investigation, which means they provide us the technical expertise that we need when we're asking for it.

In this case, it is this model and the failure scenarios. And we will be doing the analysis. They do not do the analysis. The NTSB does the analysis.

QUESTION: Sir, how soon do you expect to start reviewing pieces of the debris and possibly reassembling it?

ROSENKER: OK. Now, that's a good question.

Yesterday, I talked about us really putting this bridge back together. Today, we don't believe we're going to have to put the entire bridge back together in any way. And, again, when I say putting it back together, we would not be rebuilding it in the same manner that we might in an aircraft accident.

We would be matching pieces together. And what we're going to try to do in this case is match the pieces that we have the most interest in, the ones that we believe potentially can give us the most clues. And what we may end up having to do in this case, because this structure is so large, is cut out pieces that we're interested in, say -- and I will give you an example.

Let's say that this is a piece that we're interested in right here and here's another piece over here. We don't need to take these two big parts. What we may do is slice this and slice this, take much smaller parts to be able to put them together, because that's the areas of interest, not the entire segments of (INAUDIBLE)

QUESTION: Do you have a location where you're going to move that?

ROSENKER: Yes. We're going to move it downriver a bit. We're going to move it downriver a bit. That's the plan right now.

QUESTION: Any specific place, though (INAUDIBLE)

ROSENKER: It will be in an area where we can get to it easy. And this is a cumbersome thing to do, moving a bridge down a difficult waterway at this point.

QUESTION: This would be outdoors, sir?

ROSENKER: It will be outdoors right now.

Now, again, some of these parts that show particular interest, where we have to do a more thorough and complex examination, we will send back to Washington or we will send back to the Turner-Fairbank lab, which is the Federal Highway Administration. They will help us do some of that analysis.

QUESTION: Again, how soon will you start removing those pieces?

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: As soon as we begin -- finish the mapping process, so that we can definitely understand where all of the pieces are, and where they will -- where they have been, where they remain, so we can document that.

QUESTION: So several days?

ROSENKER: And it could be a few days.

And what we may end up doing -- we don't know yet -- we're trying to do this -- is move a section where, in fact, we can open up the piece of the river that enables traffic to go by, because we don't want in any way, shape, or form to hinder any of that traffic. There will be no short kicks -- excuse me, shortcuts -- no shortcuts.

But we will move in a very expeditious manner in order to try to open up that river again.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, could you review what the evidence shows you right now of how the bridge fell? In other words, did it fall south to north totally, south first, and then north?

ROSENKER: Well, we're -- we're actually examining that in the video. So, if I tell you how it fell, that means I have done the examination and I know exactly how it fell.

I don't know yet. We're going to try to maybe do a frame-by- frame enhancement, which will show us some things that we might not see in the real-time video, which is approximately three to four seconds of actual collapse time.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, based on your investigation so far, do you have any thoughts on the 750-some other bridges all across the country that are going to be inspected now? What are your thoughts on the safety of those bridges, based on what you are finding here?

ROSENKER: What we're -- what we're looking at is, as we continue to do the actual investigation of this bridge, we're looking -- as I indicated you to yesterday, there's been a very cooperative engagement with our people over at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. They have provided us the documentation that we have asked for.

We are going line by line of those bridge inspection reports, line by line. And not only are we looking at the line-by-line; we're also taking a look at the regulations that are part of that bridge inspection program. If we do not believe that they are as robust or as rigorous as they should be, we will immediately make a recommendation to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to examine their standards.

At this point, we have no reason, at this point, at quarter of 4:00 in Minneapolis, to suggest that that's going to be necessary. We don't know yet. It may become necessary. But, at this point, we are doing our investigation.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, what do you say to the American people, who have always believed that the bridges they're crossing are safe? And this -- the people in Minneapolis believed this bridge was safe, because it wasn't closed. What about every other bridge? What do you say to the American people about other bridges that were deemed safe?

ROSENKER: Well, again, we are -- at the NTSB, we're not the certifiers of bridges. The Federal Highway Administration does that work. The states do that work under the program of the federal inspection program of the bridges.

We have to take a look at that program. We have the ability to look at the program to see if the standards are good. We don't know it yet. We don't know it yet because we haven't finished this investigation. As we continue through this investigation, if we find regulations in any way that do not appear to be rigorous, that do not appear to be appropriate to make sure that bridges will not fall down, we will immediately make a recommendation.

Again, we have been here for about 48 hours or so. We have no reason at this point in the investigation to say that that's necessary. That is not to say, in a week or two or three or in a month, that it might become necessary.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, on this bridge, have you ruled out any external additional factors that may have contributed to the collapse?

ROSENKER: External in what way?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) driving across the bridge or (INAUDIBLE)

ROSENKER: No. We have not ruled that out.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, the 2001 analysis -- I think that's the analysis that Mn/DOT announced (INAUDIBLE) computer model, where that comes from -- that talks about out-of-plane distortion of girders, in addition to all the fatigue details. (ph)

At this point, did you find that consistent, or is that helpful with (INAUDIBLE)

ROSENKER: Again, we're -- we're really looking at what this computer model will do for us. That will give us significantly more information. We will see it in a very graphic way. So, I'm not going to speculate. I won't speculate on what we're going to find. What we will be able to do is report on what we're finding.

QUESTION: Chairman Rosenker...

ROSENKER: And that's going to continue not just on Monday, but for -- it could be months that we do this. There could be -- remember, there are a lot of elements in that bridge. And we can't do it in 24 hours or 48 hours and get that bridge fully analyzed in an accurate, meaningful way. And we're not going to take a shortcut.

QUESTION: So, by Monday, you think you may have a computer animation?

ROSENKER: We're going -- no, no.

QUESTION: No?

ROSENKER: We're going to start the first of a series, a very long, comprehensive, drawn-out series, of failure scenarios. It could be 1,000 of them that might be necessary before, in fact, we get to the right one. It could be 5,000.

QUESTION: Chairman Rosenker, I know you don't know what the shifting means, the way the bridge fell. But can you talk about what it might mean? What are the possibilities, if you see a bridge that has gone down like this, and you see this one section shifted? What might be...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: There are a number of -- a number of reasons why that could happen.

And what I'm concerned about is, if I started enumerating them, I would probably see that as the headline. And I'm not going to do that. So, what we're going to talk about is what we know and the facts that we have. And that's what I'm telling you right now.

We have got a demonstration. We have actually seen what we have right now. We're doing all of this documentation. And we are beginning to focus our efforts in that area. It may well be that we are going down the wrong road. I hope we are not. But, sometimes, we have actually started down a road, had to stop, torn up all of what we believed was the incredibly impressive investigative results, and then start again.

So, I don't want to lead -- I'm -- I'm reporting facts. That's what I'm hoping you want from me. I'm not going to speculate. And I hope the media won't speculate.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, could you be more specific about what part of the southern end of the bridge shifted?

ROSENKER: A number of -- well, what we can see is the actual structure itself, the superstructure, along with the decking, moved -- the decking moved off 50 feet. The superstructure moved to the left -- fell down, if you will. If you're looking out from the southern end toward the northern end, it fell to the left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two more questions.

QUESTION: And was that on an approach ramp, or was that on a main span?

ROSENKER: It was on a piece of the span. It was on a piece of the span.

QUESTION: A span over the river?

ROSENKER: A piece of the span, not necessarily over the river. Some of it's over the river. Some of it's as -- it's part of the bridge itself, not necessarily 100 yards away.

QUESTION: Chairman, wouldn't that be to the west, if it fell to the left?

ROSENKER: It fell -- I'm sorry -- I said left. I'm saying west. It's fine. East is where the -- the superstructure -- the superstructure fell to the west. The deck fell to the east.

QUESTION: From the center point?

ROSENKER: From the center point.

QUESTION: Have you ruled out construction as a possible factor yet?

ROSENKER: We have not ruled out anything, anything other than we believe this is an accident. That's how we're treating it.

QUESTION: Sir, was there electronic monitoring or some kind of physical monitoring being done on the bridge while that construction was going on?

ROSENKER: Not that I know of. Not that I know of today, not that I know of. Now, that -- that -- we will -- we can check that out. I don't know where you're getting that, but I don't know of anything about that.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman...

ROSENKER: I will take -- as I say, I have got one more question, and, then, unfortunately I have got to leave.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ROSENKER: Yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned the northern and southern end of the bridge.

ROSENKER: Yes.

QUESTION: Was it possible that there was also failure in the central span of the bridge or do you think...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: Possible? Possible, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENKER: We don't know yet. We -- what -- as I indicated to you in -- in our opening statement, we're beginning to look at that southern end, not ruling out anything else, but beginning to spend more of our time in this initial phase of the investigation in that end.

That's our -- it's interesting to us. It's interesting to us because of the shift away from its pilings and the way that the superstructure fell. When you compare it -- and that's -- that's the interesting part of it -- when you compare it to the remainder of the bridge, which appeared, which appeared, to collapse in place.

Thank you all very much. We will be doing another briefing. I don't know -- I don't think we're going to be doing it today. But we will be doing one tomorrow.

And Terry Williams, our press officer, will let you all know what time we will be doing it.

Thank you all very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Mark Rosenker is the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. He's the lead investigator, the NTSB, the lead investigator, of this collapse of this bridge in Minneapolis, focusing in now on the southern part of that bridge. That was new information he provided, as they try to recreate some sort of simulation of what exactly happened.

But they're saying the videotape that they have seen, some of the computer models that they are putting together are providing valuable information in this investigation. The bottom line is the hope that they determine how this bridge collapsed, why it collapsed, so that other bridges of a similar structure will not collapse.

We want to make you aware of a CNN initiative that puts you, the viewer, into a position to impact your world. If you want to know how to make a difference in the aftermath of the bridge collapse, you can go to CNN.com/impact. Follow the instructions there. This is an important project that we have.

A car plunges into the Mississippi River and quickly sinks, but the driver lives to tell her incredible survival story. You're going to hear it here. That's coming up. The waters of the Mississippi are so murky, that divers have to read license plates of submerged cars by feeling them with their fingers. It's dangerous, dirty work. We're going to show you it, up close.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour is: How confident are you if officials tell you a bridge is in very little danger of collapsing?

There's not a lot of faith in our government officials, based on the batch of mail we got in the last hour or so.

Carol writes from Bloomington, Minnesota: "I have lived in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, for 40 years. I drove through the construction on the I-35-W bridge, the one that collapsed two weeks (sic) ago. I just found out today the Lafayette Bridge, south of downtown Saint Paul, is in even worse condition that the collapsed I-35-W bridge. Governor 'Timmy' Pawlenty vetoed the transportation bill and budget three times this year. He vetoed the gas tax increase to fix our roads and bridges, because he's trying to get picked as a Republican vice president candidate. Jack, it's time to get out the pitchforks. I don't trust any politicians or bureaucrats."

Robert writes from El Paso, Texas: "I don't have much confidence in the Texas Department of Transportation. I have personally seen bridges and overpasses with cracks in them. They have been there a long time. The Texas DOT recently had federal money pulled by the federal government. I wonder where it went? What's more important, a war thousands of miles away or our people here under floodwaters and crushed bridges?"

Jake in Saint Paul, Minnesota: "I have as much faith in the assurances from our government regarding the safety of our bridges as I do when they say we are safer now than pre-9/11. Repeatedly, our government and representatives, both sides of the aisle, fail us right before our eyes. And we, as Americans, should be outraged."

D. writes: "Shortly after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, a local law enforcement official said they were treating it as a crime scene. Well, it is a crime scene. The criminals are in positions of power. And they have been derelict in their duty to protect innocent citizens. How do you charge an incompetent official with manslaughter?"

Joan in Red Bud, Illinois: "I think they have cried wolf too often for us to believe much of anything they say. When you look at New Orleans, how do you think anything else?"

And Ron in Arkansas writes: "The same government that tells us that the bridges won't collapse is the government that can't secure our ports, or borders, or food, or toys. I don't believe anything they say" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Abbi Tatton. She's following some of the personal stories that occurred on that bridge.

Abbi, what are you seeing today?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, I-Reports becoming a place where people are sharing their images and telling us how they figured through the confusion what was going on when the bridge collapsed.

Phil Welch has been telling us that he was biking along when he heard a group of state troopers who were biking along behind him. He said, their radios were going crazy. They started yelling at each other, are you going over there? What's happening?

They cut across traffic, threw their bikes into squad cars, and sped off. And, when he followed, this was the scene that he found behind the smoke. He also snapped pictures of that freight train that was crushed.

CNN.com/ireport, it's where hundreds of people in and around Minneapolis have been going to upload their pictures -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com