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CNN NEWSROOM

Olympic Star's Girlfriend Found Dead; Squalid Cruise Arrival Pushed Back Again; Filibuster Looms Over Hagel Vote; 401K Balances Hit Record Highs; Asteroid to Fly by Earth Tomorrow

Aired February 14, 2013 - 10:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM, an Olympic hero accused of murder.

DENISE BUEKES, PRETORIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: We can confirm there was a shooting at the home of the well-known paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. At this stage we can confirm that a young woman did die on the scene of gunshot wounds.

COSTELLO: The Blade Rrunner in custody, his model girlfriend shot dead.

Carnival's Triumph limps into shore with thousands of angry, tired, hungry, grimy passengers.

BRENT NUTT, WIFE STUCK ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: I promise you, none of my family members that are on there will probably ever, ever take another cruise.

COSTELLO: We're covering Triumph's return by air, land and sea.

And we're not sure what this is. They call it the chocolate Bruce Willis. It's our Valentine's Day gift to you.

NEWSROOM starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

COSTELLO (on camera): And good morning, thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello.

We begin with a shocking Valentine's Day tragedy. World-renowned Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend. That would be model Reeva Steenkamp. She's 29 years old. She was found dead of a gunshot wound at Pistorius' South African mansion this morning.

Pistorius, seen here, hiding his face outside of a South African police station, he will not be named an official suspect until he makes his first court appearance tomorrow morning. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything you can't do?

OSCAR PISTORIOUS, TRACK STAR: Yes. I mean, I think there are a couple things I'm a bit scared of. I'm terribly scared of heights.

COSTELLO (voice-over): He was one of the most inspirational men in the Olympics and arguably the most famous disabled athlete in the world. Now police are saying Oscar Pistorius was the only person found at his home after a shooting took place. And his girlfriend was found dead.

BEUKES: At this stage we can confirm that a young woman, a 30-year- old woman, did die on the scene of gunshot wounds.

COSTELLO: That woman has been identified as model Reeva Steenkamp. Some news reports claimed it was a case of mistaken identity, maybe a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong, but those reports baffled police.

BEUKES: We have also taken cognizance of the media reports during the course of the morning of an alleged break-in or that the young lady was allegedly mistaken to be a burglar. Obviously our forensic investigation is still ongoing. We're not sure where this report came from.

COSTELLO: It appears Steenkamp was looking forward to Valentine's Day. She asked her followers on Twitter yesterday, what do you have up your sleeve for love tomorrow? Get excited.

Reports say the model and the athlete have only been dating a few months. Pistorius' spokeswoman says he's, quote, "assisting the police with their investigation, but there will be no further comment until matters become clearer later today." Authorities say this isn't the first time there's been a problem at Pistorius' house.

BEUKES: But I can confirm there has previously been incident at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius, of allegations of domestic nature.

COSTELLO: Police said a pistol was found at the scene. In an interview from last January, Pistorius told a "New York Times" reporter about one incident when, quote, "a security alarm in the house had gone off and he had grabbed his gun and tip towed downstairs. It turned out to be nothing."

Of course, South Africa has a high crime rate, but police say Pistorius lives in an upscale, gated community with a low crime rate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Pistorius has never won an Olympic medal, but he has set records in the Paralympics. We'll be keeping an eye on this story and of course, we'll keep you updated as any more information comes in to us.

Imagine, being trapped five hellish days on a cruise ship with overflowing sewage only to be told your relief is being pushed back even farther, because right now, that Carnival ship Triumph is less than 60 miles from docking in Mobile, Alabama.

The current keeps pushing it farther out to sea, though. For the 4,200 people on board, that, of course, is delaying arrival, which is expected about ten hours from now. Here's what they're dealing with.

Since a fire knocked out power on Sunday, passengers say raw sewage has sloshed around the hallways. Their rooms are sweltering and food lines stretch for hours. Imagine if your loved ones had to endure all of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM MCKERREGHAN, DAUGHTER STRANDED ON SHIP: Ten hours, basically after it happened, is that they were asking for them to use plastic bags, to use the restrooms in, and that they had eaten onion sandwiches for dinner that night. And it's just getting worse. So that was the last time we talked to them, and there's just no telling what the conditions are right now.

GERRY CAHILL, PRESIDENT & CEO, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Let me assure you that no one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions on board the ship. And we, obviously, are very, very sorry about what is taking place. There is no question that conditions on board the ship are very challenging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Very challenging conditions on board that ship. Chad Myers, I think that might be the understatement of the year.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I want to know why there's so many onions on the cruise ship.

COSTELLO: Yes.

MYERS: I don't get that.

COSTELLO: Onion sandwiches, that's what they're subsisting on now.

MYERS: Here's what else is going on. There's been a north wind trying to push it back out to sea. You have to understand how large this cruise ship is. It's 116 feet wide, about 12 stories high. Even if the wind is blowing directly on the bow, that is a huge sail area.

Boaters called it windage and so this wind coming out of the north, trying to push the boat 20 miles per hour backwards and a small one for a very long time tugboat trying to tug it back into shore. So the winds really did overcome what this boat was trying to do.

Let me make this a lot bigger for you so you can see where it is. There's the "Triumph" right there. The winds have been trying it to blow it out this way under the power for a while only 5,000 horsepower. Now "Triumph" by itself has 46,000 horsepower to move it on a regular day. So ten times less power than it has on a regular day. It will move it right through this cut, that cut between Fort Morgan and there's Dauphin Island, right through the Mobile Channel, and this is a very long tow.

I mean, we're talking 30 miles at three to four miles per hour. Ten hours those people will be able to see land and not get off -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That's just -- I just feel for them.

MYERS: I know.

COSTELLO: And you said the most agonizing part is they're going to approach shore very, very slowly. So how long will it -- once they get, what, a couple miles out, how long will it take them to actually reach shore.

MYERS: Here's what's going to happen. They're going to bring a couple tugboats to this ship. They only have a 300-yard wide channel to get this through. Even with the winds that they have today, they're going to put a tug on the front, a couple on the back, and two on the sides to literally kind of angle this thing straight up the canal, up the channel.

You don't want this thing grounding on the one side or the other because of the wind blowing it back and forth. That's when we'll start to see the pictures. Even Sandra Endo, because of some low ceilings, can't get that helicopter high enough to get pictures, at least last hour, to send them back to Mobile where our truck is waiting for those pictures from the helicopter.

COSTELLO: Unbelievable. All right, Chad Myers, thanks so much.

So, a lot of people are wondering, how in the world could this have happened? So we want to explore that issue a little bit. Stewart Chiron, CEO of the cruiseguy.com, joins us now from Miami. Hi, Stewart.

STEWART CHIRON, CEO, CRUISEGUY.COM: Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good morning. I know maritime laws prevented the U.S. Coast Guard from rescuing these passengers. Still why doesn't the cruise industry have a better plan to get people off the ship?

CHIRON: Well, I mean, let's take a look at the plan. I mean, this is a mechanical ship. Carnival actually has actually done a very good job. They've been incredibly forthcoming with the information. Moving the ship to Mobile versus Progreso, alleviated an enormous amount of logistical nightmares for these passengers, because 900 passengers on board the ship did not have valid -- did not have their passports with them, which would have created immigration snafus in both Mexico and in the United States and it would have taken several more days to repatriate the passengers and the crew back to the United States. So getting into Mobile certainly made a whole lot more sense than sticking them into Mexico.

COSTELLO: So you're telling me this is the best Carnival could have done?

CHIRON: Well, I mean, what else would people like to have done? I mean, they've had three ships help re-provision the ship with food and supplies and tons of food and supplies that have replenished the ship.

They're out in the ocean. It's not like they have transporter room they can get on board the starship Enterprise and get people on and off. It would have created more of a challenge where passengers would have been risking injury in getting them off the ship.

COSTELLO: When you have stories of sewage running down the walls, it seems that they really don't have their act together in the case of an emergency like this, when a cruise ship is literally stranded out at sea for a number of days?

CHIRON: Carol, we're -- I also deal with the vocal minority and not the silent majority. You know, I'm not there, we're not there. We're hearing from a few people describing what they're seeing, but we're also hearing from people that are saying it's not that bad.

Carnival staff has really done a great job for us on board the ship. There is still -- there is some power on board the ship. There are elevators. There are working toilets.

Is it the best situation what they wanted? No. Carnival has came out immediately came out and apologized, taken ownership of the problem and doing everything humanly possible to get these people off that ship in a timely manner and Mobile was their best option at this point.

COSTELLO: All right, Stewart Chiron, CEO of cruiseguy.com. Thank you so much.

CHIRON: My pleasure.

COSTELLO: Onto politics now. The full Senate is expected to vote on the Hagel nomination for Defense Secretary this week, but a new push from Republicans could mean trouble for the former senator.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 13 minutes past the hour. A threat is growing in the United States Senate over a possible GOP filibuster on Chuck Hagel, the president's choice for Defense Secretary.

Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has more for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chuck Hagel's opponents are not going down without a fight.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Am I supposed to sit on the sidelines and be a good, compliant Republican and just let this administration not account for what I think is a national security breakdown of monumental proportions? BASH: From day one, Lindsey Graham was a leading critic of Hagel for his past positions on everything from Iraq to Israel. Now Graham and others are threatening to block Hagel for Defense Secretary, using him as leverage on a completely different issue. They want to know if the president called Libyan officials the night of September's Benghazi attack to ask for help for Americans eventually killed.

(on camera): How do you respond to critics who are saying that you're just moving the goal post? First it's about Hagel's past and what he said.

GRAHAM: I'm going to take every opportunity. I'm not denying it.

BASH: You are moving the goal post?

GRAHAM: No. I'm going to hit you and keep hitting you, absolutely. You're in the going to get with not answering basic questions.

BASH (voice-over): John McCain, who said he would not go along with the Hagel filibuster, is reversing course saying he, too, wants answers about Benghazi before letting Hagel go through.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's the first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for Secretary of Defense has been filibustered. What a shame.

BASH: All this a day after the Armed Services Committee approved Hagel's nomination on a party line vote amid biting accusations.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Have you been paid by a foreign government --

BASH: Republican Ted Cruz demanding to know if Hagel accepted money for speeches from foreign countries that oppose U.S. interest.

CRUZ: It is a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea. I have no evidence to suggest that it is or isn't.

BASH: Democrats lit into Cruz.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Senator Cruz has gone over the line. He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee.

BASH: Even McCain, opposed to Hagel's nomination, says Cruz went too far.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Senator Hagel is an honorable man. He has served his country, and no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or integrity.

BASH: Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin expects the White House to answer Graham and McCain on the question of the president and Benghazi, but administration officials say they're not so sure, they're still deliberating on whether to do that. What all this means is a nomination the White House always knew was going to be bumpy but thought would get through is now uncertain.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: An asteroid about half the size of a football field set to zip past Earth tomorrow. How close will it get? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Maybe we did learn a thing or two about saving during the great recession. A new report out today shows that 401(k) balances have hit a record high. The average account balance was $77,300 at the end of last year.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Good morning.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. So it turns out, according to Fidelity, that the gains we're seeing in our 401(k)s from stocks are responsible for two-thirds of the increase that we're seeing in our 401(k)s. The rest comes from workers who are upping their contributions.

So yes, good for us. On average, people with Fidelity 401(k) plans put away 8 percent of their annual salaries; 82 percent of those people also get matching contributions from their employer and maybe the best news of all.

As of June of last year, 94 percent of 401(k)s of people who had their 401(k)s, they have a higher account balance now compared to what they had before the financial crisis. So yes, we have learned our lesson, at least for now -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It makes me so happy. Thank you so much, Alison Kosik, reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange.

A giant asteroid is about to give earth a flyby. I love talking about asteroids. Chad does too. We'll talk about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: An asteroid about half the length of a football field is supposed to fly by the earth tomorrow. It will pass within 17,000 miles. The question is, will we be able to see it and could it possibly pass closer to us?

Chad Myers is here to give us all the answers to those questions. Good morning.

MYERS: Good morning, Carol. People are worried about this big rock flying through our atmosphere. It's not going to get down anywhere near, you know, Felix was jumping out of his balloon. This is 17,000 miles away.

Now if you're watching on Dish or Direct TV, your satellite is 22,000 miles away. So yes, there are some Earth satellites here around the ring. The moon is far away. The moon is ten times farther away than what this thing is going to fly through our geosynchronis earth orbit.

So is there a chance of it hitting something? Yes. Is there a chance that I win Megaball tonight? It's a better chance than if it hit something.

If you take this sphere, which is 22,000 miles around plus the diameter of the Earth, you have billions of square miles of surface area on this sphere, billions of square miles. All of a sudden you take a rock and you fly it through there, there's only 400 things that it can hit on those billions of square miles. It's likely not going to hit anything. Have you ever heard of a meteor hitting an airplane? No.

So this is the idea. You have a rock going through a small spot with very few little specs to hit, likely not going to hit anything. JPL has talked to us and said this is just not going to be an issue. The chance isn't zero, but the chance of you getting hit by lightning or winning Megaball tonight is much higher.

COSTELLO: You've made it so much less exciting.

MYERS: I'm sorry. That's my job. I don't want to be the fearmonger.

COSTELLO: No, that's a good thing. Will it mess up my cell service or anything like that?

MYERS: It should not do anything. This would have to make a direct hit. It's just a rock flying by. It's not going to explode. It's not going to be anything. These things fly by, we talked to JPL. Something the size of a basketball flies through the same area once a day.

Something the size of a Prius flies through it about once or twice every week. So things fly through these satellite belts and never hit it. The fact that this is a little bit bigger has a larger chance but only by the size that it is.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome, Carol.

COSTELLO: I feel completely safe now thanks to you.

MYERS: Good to see you again.

COSTELLO: I know it's so good to have you back. Come back more often.

MYERS: I will.

COSTELLO: All right, we'll take a break. We'll be back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)