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Ferry Crashes into Pier in New York; PA Hospital Sets Up a Flu Tent; Wal-Mart to Attend White House Gun Meeting; Fire, Fuel Leak Cancel Three 787 Flights; Film Could Shape Brennan Hearings

Aired January 9, 2013 - 10:00   ET


BEN REITER, SPORTS WRITER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": However, I think that perhaps no one will include the necessary 75 percent that means that come July we could have an induction weekend without a living member on the stage for the first time in 1965. The Hall of Fame might not just be a fantasy land in which history is denied, it might become something worse, which is irrelevant.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I say go Jack Morris. Ben Reiter, thanks so much. We appreciate your being here this morning.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

And good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. We're starting this hour with breaking news. About an hour ago, a passenger ferry in New York City crashed -- and I mean, crashed into a pier. More than a dozen people are hurt. Some are being taken away on stretchers.

CNN's national correspondent Susan Candiotti is in New York. She's been following this. Tell us more -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. What a scene down there. When you take a look at that ferry, you can see a large chunk, it looks like it's been eaten out or bitten out, as it apparently crashed into the dock.

Now, we talked to a passenger on the ship, and she says that this is a ferry that makes a daily run from New Jersey. She got on in Highland, New Jersey, and it goes all the way over to Wall Street Dock number 11. This accident happened according to officials just before 9:00 in the morning.

This is a ferry service that makes daily runs from New Jersey to New York and has a number of ships in its fleet. This one appears to be one that contains -- that can carry as many as 400 passengers so right now authorities and rescue crews are on the scene, reporting at least 17 injuries.

Apparently, all of the injuries, we are being told, are minor as of this time. But authorities, of course, have to get to the bottom of how this could have happened. Was there a mechanical failure? Was something else at play?

And we're quite sure that investigation will be getting under way today. It's not uncommon for the National Transportation Safety Board to get involved in investigations of this kind as well.

But when it happened, we saw in fairly short order, rescue crews were there including New York's Fire Department going on board the ship and bringing several people out on stretchers, as you can see, of course, to make sure that there are no serious injuries but certainly to get them to the hospital if any people need hospitalization -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Susan Candiotti, thank you.

We now have a passenger on board that ferry, Elizabeth Banta. She's on the phone. Hi, Elizabeth.


COSTELLO: OK, so tell me, I mean, when the boat hit the dock, how did that feel?

BANTA: It's kind of felt like we were in a car crash. We weren't quite at the dock yet, so it seemed like no one was really sure what we had hit, but it didn't feel like anything that had ever happened before on the boat. It didn't feel like a mechanical failure or a light tap like it was definitely a hard crash.

COSTELLO: So did people fly around everywhere? Were they seated, standing? What?

BANTA: I happened to be sitting, but as we normally come to the dock, a lot of people do get out of their seats to wait by the door. And those people were thrown, like into the air and onto the ground.

COSTELLO: So then the emergency crews, did they just come -- well, they had to get there, right, get to the scene, but how long was it before they went on board the boat to get people out on stretchers?

BANTA: I would say it was about 10 minutes. When we did crash, we weren't quite at the dock yet, so we had to make our way to the dock and then allow the emergency personnel to come on board.

COSTELLO: We just confirmed them, just so you know, Elizabeth, 50 people now injured, one of them critical. What kind of injuries did you see if any?

BANTA: I was sitting in the back, and I could see from my seat about four people that were on the ground. One man had a nosebleed. Another woman was kind of near the door. And someone was asked if anyone knew CPR. So I couldn't see her face, but there was another woman in front of me who was lying on the ground. There were definitely many people on the ground that were not moving.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth, but you're OK, right?


COSTELLO: Thank goodness because you were sitting in the back. I guess you were lucky? BANTA: Yes. I mean, I think if I had been standing, it would have been a lot worse.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Banta, thanks so much for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

BANTA: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Now a story that may affect you is now likely to affect you, actually. It's the outbreak of the flu and this year it is exceptionally early and unusually rampant, 43 states now reporting widespread cases. Hospitals are dealing with overflow crowds.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a tent now sits in the shadow of Lehigh Valley Hospital. It's heated. It's being used as a kind of portable flu clinic. Terry Burger is the hospital's director of Infection Control and Prevention. Well, your title gives us a hint. Tell us, Terry, why you've set up this tent.

TERRY BURGER, LEHIGH VALLEY HOSPITAL, DIRECTOR OF INFECTION CONTROL: The reason why we set up the tent is in an effort to decompress what we were seeing in our emergency departments. Typically, we can see anywhere about 285 to 300 patients and we were seeing an additional 100 on top of that with flulike symptoms.

COSTELLO: So give me a sense of a typical day, one where so many patients came into your hospital, it overwhelmed doctors.

BURGER: Well, the challenge is that we are a level one trauma center. So we still need to keep our doors open for heart attacks and strokes and burn patients and traumas. Now on top of that, we had to take care of 100 patients that were coming in with flulike symptoms.

So the challenge was how long patients had to wait. That is the reason why we, as an emergency management team, decided to put the tent up in an effort to decrease those waits, cohort those patients, and hopefully patients with mild symptoms could be seen quickly and then discharged directly from the tent.

COSTELLO: Were they older patients, younger patients, kids?

BURGER: To be honest with you, we are seeing flu patients all across the board from very young to very old. We've been unfortunate enough to also have a death in our institution, but there have been several deaths across Pennsylvania as well as across the entire nation. So flu is serious.

COSTELLO: You're not kidding. OK, so you're a health care professional. People want to know how they can protect themselves. I mean, I haven't gotten the flu shot yet. Should I get one?

BURGER: Absolutely. The number one means of protecting yourself against the flu is influenza vaccination. In addition to that, hand hygiene. We say that over and over and over. Good hand hygiene.

You can also practice social distancing, meaning avoid crowds, avoid going to work if you're ill, going to school if you're ill, coughing into your sleeve, using tissues. The unfortunate part is people tend to continue to do those activities even though they're ill. It's an efficient transmitter, and thus we infect our surfaces and our co- workers.

COSTELLO: Terry Burger, thanks and good luck. And I'm glad you're hanging in there. We appreciate it. Thanks so much.

As you can see, it's a busy morning here at CNN. Breaking news, more breaking news to tell you about, this involves Wal-Mart. We told you earlier that Wal-Mart was invited to Joe Biden's task force on guns in America.

Wal-Mart says its executives were way too busy to attend, so it decided not to, says it didn't mean to dis the president, the administration or Joe Biden. Its executives just had another meeting to attend in Arkansas.

Christine Romans is here to tell us about a change of mind, maybe?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A change of mind and a change of heart. The company telling me just now that they decided they will send the appropriate representative to meet in person at these meetings Thursday with the vice president's task force.

They say knowing our senior leaders could not be in Washington this week. We spoke in advance with the vice president's office to share our perspective. We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate.

We take this issue very seriously and are committed to staying engaged in the discussion as the administration and congress work toward a consensus for the right path forward. Why is Wal-Mart such a big stakeholder?

Carol, we told you, it is the world's largest retailer. It sells guns and ammunition. It is, many analysts say, the largest seller of guns and ammunition because of its position as the world's biggest retailer, it is definitely a stakeholder.

COSTELLO: I'm just, like, they didn't understand how important this was? Did they miss what happened in Newtown?

ROMANS: I think that this became a PR blunder when people began to say, why aren't they there? They said that they had monthly meetings already on the calendar in Bentonville, Arkansas, with their senior executives that a meeting earlier this week, a conference call meeting earlier this week with the vice president's staff was how they were going to contribute to the conversation.

But there are a lot of other groups who have also been having conference call meetings with the vice president's staff who will be attending in person. Look, this is a guest list or an invitation list that is very closely scrutinized because you want all of the different participants and players in the discussion after Newtown to be there at the table, literally at the table, and now Wal-Mart will be literally at the table.

COSTELLO: Well, that is good news. Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Dan Lothian, he's at the White House. So tell us what Joe Biden wants accomplished in this meeting.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, and that's why it was important for Wal-Mart to be at the table here, because, you know, Vice President Biden, cabinet members and other senior-level officials here at the White House want to get as much input from various sectors of the gun industry, those who sell it, those who own guns, those who are concerned about weapons, to sit down at the table and to come up with some options to prevent gun violence like we saw in Connecticut.

And so it's a chance for this group led by the vice president to get information, but also to provide some information to these folks as well. And then the hope is that this can turn into some policy proposal that will be submitted to the president by the end of the month.

What they're also saying here at the White House is that in the meantime, while they're trying to come up with these policy proposals that there's a lot that Congress can do such as reinstating the ban on assault weapons, also closing some of the loopholes on background checks and then limiting high-capacity magazines.

Those are things they say they can move forward on right away. But then, of course, you have gun owners, the NRA saying you need to look beyond that. That is important. But it's not just about gun control. You have to look at issues such as mental illness.

They've also said that you have to look at, you know, the gaming industry and how these violent games contribute to these violent shootings. And in addition, you've heard the NRA say that, you know, they are proposing that all schools should have an armed person there in order to prevent violence at school. So they believe that you should look at a comprehensive approach, not just look at guns out there.

COSTELLO: Well, representatives from all of those entities you just mentioned will be at the meeting in person, even Wal-Mart.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

COSTELLO: Dan Lothian, thanks so much. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Two breaking news stories we're covering for you today. The first, let's talk about this one first, in New York City, Pier 11 near Wall Street. Ferry ferrying people from New Jersey down to Wall Street on the east river blams into the dock. There's a gaping hole in the boat.

Fifty people injured, one of them critically. Many of them had neck injuries. Some of them had head injuries. WABC, our affiliate in New York, their chopper pilot describes the scene.


MALE REPORTER: Well, I haven't gotten any more official information. I'm just going with what I'm watching here at the scene. You can take that injury count now up to around 20. That's how many patients we count, again, on the ground, you can see on those stretchers and in wheelchairs.

One other note in the rear of the boat, we just saw them, are they coming out with another injury right there? Yes. Injured people are still coming off of the boat. There's one and another just coming out the door. We saw at the front entrance of the boat firefighters and EMS workers entering with empty stretchers.

So I would have to think that there are still more injuries inside. Again, it's an informal count that I'm doing from the air. But right now counting the three that have just been taken out of the boat, we can move that injury count now to above 20 and probably closer to 23 or 24 that's the unofficial count that I'm seeing from the air.


COSTELLO: Obviously, he gave that report a little earlier this morning because the injury count is now up to 50. One person has been critically injured in this accident. A couple of minutes ago, we talked to a passenger on board that ferry. Her name was Elizabeth Banta.

She said it didn't feel like a mechanical problem. It just felt like the boat ran into the dock really hard. People were standing by the door waiting to get off the ferry, she said, and they were thrown in the air to the floor.

So you can see how hard that boat hit the dock and why there were so many injuries. Investigators are just now starting to figure out what happened.

We're also following a breaking news story concerning Wal-Mart. Wal- Mart was supposed to attend a meeting held by Vice President Joe Biden because he has this big task force on guns, right? The NRA is going to be there, representatives from Hollywood are going to be there, representatives from the video game industry are going to be there.

Wal-Mart was supposed to be there, too. But earlier this morning, it said it didn't have anyone to send because it had prior commitments. And its executives could not go to Washington to attend Joe Biden's task force meeting.

Moments ago, Wal-Mart changed its mind, though. And I want to read you a bit of the statement it sent us. Wal-Mart says, quote, "We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate."

So Wal-Mart will indeed attend Joe Biden's task force meetings on Thursday, as invited. Wal-Mart changed its mind because it underestimated things. You see it. We'll get an update from Christine Romans a little later.

It's been a rough week for Boeing's newest jet. Today a 787 Dreamliner flight is canceled for an error message about the plane's brakes. On Monday, a Japanese airline, a 787, caught fire at Boston's Logan Airport. The fire started in the battery compartment. No one was on board. And then on Tuesday, another Japanese airliner 787 was canceled this time because of a fuel leak.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Japan Air may know it, but they've got fuel or something spilling out the outboard left wing there quite a bit.


COSTELLO: Sandra Endo joins us now from Washington. Tell us more about these incidents. They're now under investigation, right?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, the string of irregularities for Boeing's marquee plane, the 787 Dreamliner, is certainly a concern for the manufacturer. The plane is the first commercial airliner to be made mostly of carbon composites, or plastic, which means it's a lighter plane that Boeing says uses less fuel than conventional airliners.

Well, Boeing says it is working with NTSB investigators, looking into Monday's fire on a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan Airport. The fire involved the batteries in the belly of the plane used to power the aircraft while on the ground.

And in a statement, Boeing adds, "nothing that we've seen in this case indicates a relationship with any previous 787 power system events." As for the second Japan Airlines Dreamliner that was spewing fuel at Logan Airport yesterday, it was a pilot from another plane that alerted the control tower that the 787 was losing fuel.

And then the control tower notified the unsuspecting JAL pilot. Now the NTSB says it's not looking into the fuel leak, which JAL officials are deeming a mechanical problem. And Boston Airport officials say there was no leak in the fuel tank, but the plane was venting fuel, which is the aircraft's way to dump excess fuel.

But it's not usually seen on the runway. So after four hours, the Dreamliner was checked out and cleared to fly. Now, the Japanese government told CNN they have asked airlines to inspect planes for battery problems that could cause a fire similar to Monday's incident.

And United Airlines told CNN as well, it inspected all their 787s after Monday's fire, but would not elaborate on their findings. And just this morning as you mentioned, an all-Nippon Airways Dreamliner canceled a domestic flight in Japan because of an electrical problem with the alert messaging system involving the brakes.

COSTELLO: I just want to know if it's safe to fly on a 787, is it? ENDO: I think it is. You know, it's a pretty new plane. There are a lot of kinks to be worked out and these are kind of minor mechanical electrical problems. I sat in the cockpit of a 787 on another story, and it's just so fascinating.

All the touch screens they're using and al the electronics involved in this plane. But keep in mind, these problems are affecting the company, though, because after the reports of these two problems, just this week, yesterday Boeing shares fell 3.6 percent.

COSTELLO: Sandra Endo, thanks so much, reporting live from Washington.

President Obama wants CIA veteran John Brennan to be the agency's new director, but a new movie could complicate his confirmation.


COSTELLO: Hollywood often borrows storylines from Washington, but the new movie "Zero Dark Thirty" could create political intrigue in the opposite direction. The film paints a pretty intense picture of CIA interrogation techniques.

And it's in theaters that senators on the real Capitol Hill prepare to weigh the confirmation of John Brennan. He is a CIA veteran whom President Obama has nominated to lead the agency.

Our Chris Lawrence has this look at how the film and Brennan's confirmation could intersect.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of moviegoers could come away from "Zero Dark Thirty" believing that terrorist broke during brutal interrogations and gave up information that led to Osama Bin Laden.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This film raises all these questions at an interesting time for the Obama administration.

LAWRENCE: The movie opens nationwide as John Brennan prepares for confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

BERGEN: John Brennan is the first person to be nominated head of CIA who was at the agency at the time these techniques were being used.

LAWRENCE: It derailed his potential nomination for the same job four years ago. In 2008, human rights activists attacked Brennan as a Bush administration company man. In part because of what Brennan said to CBS, that enhanced interrogation techniques produced valuable information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The agency has used against the real hard core terrorists. It has saved lives.

LAWRENCE: Now "Zero Dark Thirty" is bringing that issue front and center before Brennan's hearings. And ironically it was the Obama administration that backed the movie, giving filmmakers incredible access to top military and CIA officials.

Although filmmakers claim it's based on firsthand accounts, the CIA has issues with the movie.

BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA SPOKESMAN: They showed people being beaten and people chained to the ceiling and people hold around in dog collars that simply did not happen to any of the al Qaeda detainees that were in CIA custody.

LAWRENCE: Bill Harlow was at the CIA when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others were captured. He says unlike the film, interrogators did not question detainees during enhanced interrogation and only used the techniques in the first days or weeks of detention.

HARLOW: Once they became compliant, they never again received enhanced interrogation.

LAWRENCE: As for Brennan, Harlow says when these techniques were being used in 2002 and '03, Brennan had nothing to do with the program.

HARLOW: To tar him with that brush or to give him credit for that would be incorrect because it just didn't meet his duties at the time.

LAWRENCE: In other words, they're saying that Brennan shouldn't be blamed or credited for enhanced interrogation because he didn't have much to do with it, although he and other officials have supported the techniques which they say led to breakthroughs, although not the breakthrough that's depicted in the film, the big one that led to Osama Bin Laden. Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Our Alison Kosik reports live from the New York Stock Exchange every morning. She's very near that accident. In fact, she's on her way to the ferry accident near Wall Street right now.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll come back with the latest news from that ferry location and the 50 injured passengers from our Alison Kosik next.


COSTELLO: Let's head back to Lower Manhattan where there's been a ferry accident. Somehow that ferry ran hard into a dock. There's a big, gaping hole in the front of that boat. At least 50 people have been injured, one of them critically. This is very near Wall Street.

Alison Kosik, as you know, reports from the New York Stock Exchange every day. She was nearby. She joins us on the phone. She's on the scene right now. What's it look like?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): At least a dozen emergency vehicles up and down Pier 11 here where lots of ferries come in. This is where the financial district is. A lot of people -- a lot of commuters -- use this route to get into Manhattan.

This particular ferry came in from Highlands, New Jersey. It was the 8:00 a.m. ferry out of Highlands, New Jersey, expected to arrive here at Pier 11 at 8:45. Clearly something went terribly wrong. I spoke with one woman, 26-year-old Ashley, who was on this ferry.

She told me about her ride into Manhattan. She said at first, it seemed like a normal day, a normal day getting on the boat. And it certainly didn't turn out to be that way. They said she was standing right in the middle of the boat when it was clear that the boat hit something.

All she remembers is she went flying in the air and she woke up on the floor to a woman begging her to speak. She was shaking her and begging her to speak, telling me she was clearly knocked out.

And then she heard emergency officials tell everybody who could, who could walk, to go to the front of the boat and get off first. They wanted to attend to people who were more seriously hurt. Ashley told me how when she did walk, she felt lots of people flying everywhere.